OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch anticipated a major role for Tre Norwood in his secondary a year ago.
Norwood, a 6-foot defensive back from Fort Smith, Arkansas, had productive freshman and sophomore seasons in 2017 and '18. His 2019 season ended before it could start, however, when he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury during fall camp.
“He was positioned to be one of the starters on defense,” Grinch said, “one of the guys that we were excited about that we didn’t have a chance to use last year.”
Norwood has recovered from the injury and is pegged as a backup cornerback behind sophomore Jaden Davis.
The redshirt junior should still see the field with how often Grinch rotates his defensive players. Fellow cornerback Tre Brown certainly believes Norwood will make an impact.
“He’s looked really good coming back from an ACL injury,” Brown said. “Some guys maybe lose a step or something, but he hasn’t lost anything at all. He’s gained a step.
“Just seeing him out there flying around and having an extra leader out there because you know he’s also one of the old guys. He’s played since his freshman year. That helps us our depth and going into the future. Just know we’re going to have a lot of leaders on this team. With him back, there’s a lot of plays that are going to be made.”
Norwood has recorded 88 tackles, 14 pass breakups and one interception over two seasons.
OU currently expects to roll with Brown and Davis at the starting cornerback spots. Norwood is the only firm backup with freshmen Joshua Eaton, D.J. Graham and Kendall Dennis competing for the other primary backup role.
• No change in thinking: The College Football Playoff selection committee will have two less Power 5 leagues to consider with the Big Ten and Pac-12 not expected to play football this fall.
It leaves the sport in a strange place amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Sooners’ mentality hasn’t changed with the unprecedented circumstances around college football this season.
“It’s definitely not softened. Those are our expectations,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “We understand this season is going to provide some different challenges, challenges none of us have ever faced before. In a lot of ways, it already has before it has already begun. Standard here remains the same. We expect to be the best football team we can be. We expect to win and compete for championships.”
• Challenge in the trenches: Few defensive lines get as quality of competition in practice as OU’s does against the Sooners offensive line, according to OU defensive end Isaiah Thomas.
The Sooner defensive line veteran was complimentary of assistant Bill Bedenbaugh’s unit, which will start (from left to right) tackle Anton Harrison, guard Marquise Hayes, center Creed Humphrey, guard Tyrese Robinson and tackle Adrian Ealy.
“I know that first group can hold it down for sure and definitely carry that tradition that they've been doing with this offensive line and with this offense,” Thomas said. “It's also been helpful for us defense to get different looks with different types of players and how they use their different techniques and sizes.
“We definitely get a good look at them and we can definitely use that for an advantage for us when we play other teams that we've already seen before. So, this offensive line is definitely going to be a dominant o-line this year.”
• OU announces captains: A pair of Oklahoma natives will serve as OU’s team captains for the 2020 season.
Juniors Creed Humphrey (Shawnee) and Patrick Fields (Tulsa) were named captains, the team announced Thursday.
Humphrey is entering his third year as OU’s starting center, while Fields is entering his second season starting at safety.
• Local ties: Grant Goodson, a Norman High alumnus, was announced as a backup offensive tackle for Missouri State this week.
Goodson is a true freshman for the Bears after helping NHS make the Class 6A-I state playoffs the past two years.
• On the call: Former OU offensive coordinator Chuck Long will join Chad McKee on the pay-per-view broadcast for OU-Missouri State as an analyst.
Long coached at OU from 2000-05, mentoring the likes of Josh Heupel and Jason White. The former Iowa star left OU to become San Diego State's head football coach.