Billy Bowmans The first season in Oklahoma was eventful to say the least.
The consensus 4-star recruit has been making instant waves over the past year, notching seven starts in his true freshman season for the Sooners.
Used primarily as a nickel earlier in the year, Bowman seemed on track to use his exceptional athleticism to put together an impressive inaugural season.
But injuries in Oklahoma’s secondary school changed the course of Bowman’s year.
The Denton, TX product was dragged in multiple directions and cornered at short notice, and his level of play dropped along with the rest of the defenders.
Moving a young player to multiple positions carries a high level of risk, and Bowman himself admitted he took a slight mental hit from the volatility.
However, the off-season coaching changes helped immediately reverse course as the young defender recovered this spring.
“I definitely felt like I lost some confidence last season,” Bowman said Tuesday during OU Media Day. “But I feel like this year (I) was able to regain that confidence when these coaches came in. And during the Spring Ball, I felt like I definitely got my confidence back and I’m ready to go.”
Brent Venables had a simple plan to get Bowman back on track – allow Bowman to succeed at just one position.
Now the 5ft-10 defender is a member of Brandon Hall’s safe room, a place where Bowman feels he can thrive in 2022.
“I feel like that’s exactly what suits me,” Bowman said. “Can cover green. I’m a fast, delicate guy. I may not be the greatest, but I definitely get from A to B very quickly, so I feel like I have to be at the forefront of defense.”
Despite the ups and downs, Bowman’s freshman year was still a success.
He recorded a pair of pass breakups to go with his 22 tackles, 1.5 tackles for losses and forced fumbles last year.
And while Bowman himself said he lost a little confidence, Hall said he hasn’t seen any sign that Bowman has questioned himself since arriving on campus with the new staff last winter.
“He’s done nothing but really good things since the day I walked onto campus,” Hall said. “He’s a really good student. He’s a leader in the weight room. He is always competitive and tries to be the best he can be in everything he does. Like I said, he’s a great person.”
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With Delarrin Turner-Yell and Pat Fields gone, the Sooners need two guys to step up and take the vacated back end snaps.
Archer and Key Lawrence were chosen for the role as both boys want to be successful at one point this year. Like Bowman, Lawrence played in several positions over the past year
Hall believes the moves can get the best out of Bowman and Lawrence as it allows both guys to play instinctively and react faster to play rather than having to think twice when they’re just at one spot on the back end of defense settle down through any situation.
“You start to brainwash yourself to play a certain part of the field,” Hall said. “Understanding the different body signals of the other players you play with and the communication piece and how routes and running fits come together. … There’s a certain level of comfort that comes with that, and I think everyone is.
“…I think the most important thing is just a comfortable level of seeing the same things over and over again and hearing the same things over and over, and then pretty soon it becomes second nature, muscle memory.”
Bowman fully embraced the change. He said his goal is to start small in the spring, but over the summer he’s learned more and more about how he’ll be deployed in 2022.
“During the bouncing ball, I was strictly focused on one position,” he said. “But now that we have time off football in terms of strength and conditioning and stuff like that, I’ve focused on knowing more about defence. So it’s been good for me.
“…I feel like it allows me to focus on the little things. Once you’ve narrowed your focus to one thing, you can focus on all the little things. Get great at one thing and then focus on the other things.”
If he can digest all the new information thrown at him, Bowman’s athleticism will bring an element that has been missing from the back end of Oklahoma’s defense for quite some time.
During his high school career, Bowman demonstrated the ability to turn a game in one go. The previous coaching staff obviously believed in those traits too, allowing him to take reps as a kick returner, despite the fact that special teams were treated as an afterthought in games last year.
Hall is also very confident in the second year. But he needs to continue his work through fall camp to be ready to make a difference in safety from the 2022 jump.
“He’s confident and has a lot of desire,” Hall said. “Everyone knows he’s athletic, he’s explosive. He has all the qualities to be a great soccer player and he shows up hungry and ready for work every day.
“And I expect Billy to do great things in Oklahoma. I really do. I think he has a great temper. He is very confident and at the same time very calm. He’s really going to be a good football player. He loves the game.”
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