- Brandon Chatmon, College Football
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NORMAN, Okla. -- He understands it will be one of the biggest tests of his career. But at the same time, he knows Ryan Broyles tested him in ways he's unlikely to see on Saturday.
It's easy to see why Oklahoma nickelback Julian Wilson will step on the Jones AT&T Stadium turf with confidence this weekend when the Sooners take on Texas Tech. The redshirt sophomore spent most of the 2011 season matched up with Broyles, a second round NFL pick by the Detroit Lions, while playing on the Sooners scout-team defense.
"I wasn't getting much playing time, except special teams, I was guarding Ryan Broyles every day," Wilson said of his redshirt freshman year. "Guarding him every day really made me better. He was a god at his routes and everything he did."
A slot receiver with exceptional quickness and route running, Broyles was an impossible matchup for Big 12 defenses for four seasons, earning All-American honors twice.
While Wilson won't see anyone like Broyles on Saturday, he'll be tasked with defending quick slot receivers against the Red Raiders as he'll likely see the most extensive action on defense during his career.
"Ryan is a freak on the field. Going against him every day, it's easier now going against people who don't run their routes as good as him," said Wilson, while noting he means no disrespect to any of the Big 12's top skill players.
Make no mistake about it, OU's defensive backs, not just Wilson, will be tested against a Red Raiders offense that is averaging 358.8 passing yards per game and has thrown 17 touchdowns in four games.
"This is going to be our first true test," cornerback Aaron Colvin said. "I don't think it will define us but it will definitely give us a test."
It's a test the Sooners failed in 2011. Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege had one of the best games of his career against OU threw for 441 yards, four touchdowns with no interceptions while leading his squad to a 41-38 upset victory. It was a tough game for the Sooners secondary, particularly Gabe Lynn, who gave up multiple big plays after starting at cornerback with Jamell Fleming injured.
It's a game that gives defensive coordinator Mike Stoops the opportunity to put a stamp on his return to Norman and a chance at redemption for Lynn, Colvin and the rest of the defensive backs.
"[Mike Stoops] told us it's going to be a big test for us," Wilson said. "Everybody is going to have to show what they can do."
Lynn and Wilson, OU's fifth and sixth defensive backs, could be put squarely in the spotlight against Texas Tech's spread attack. Both players have been solid in spot duty but the Red Raiders are likely to attack them when they're on the field because Colvin and Demontre Hurst are playing as well as any cornerback duo in the nation this season.
"That happened a year ago, so I'm just ready to turn over a new chapter," Lynn said. "I've just got to challenge myself as a player and not give up the big play."
Wilson is the least experienced of the group. He played a big role on special teams and made a key fourth-down stop on a Red Raiders fake punt a year ago. Nonetheless, he's never spent as much time on the field defensively as he could on Saturday. Fortunately for the Sooners, Wilson has an ace in the hand. His roommate is Colvin.
"We watch film together and go over plays together," Wilson said. "He played nickel when he was a freshman so he tells me the ins and outs and what I have to do."
Said Colvin: "I'm always talking to him. Julian is ready, he might be a little nervous because of the outcome last year and the environment is going to be crazy. I know Julian very well and I know he's going to be out there and he's going to ball.
"I have a lot of confidence in my man."
Texas Tech QB Seth Doege torched OU last season. This year, Julian Wilson and the Sooners secondary feel they're better prepared.