State of the program: Safety

After grading the performance of Oklahoma’s safeties in 2012, it is the perfect time to take a closer look at the safeties on the roster or the commitment list as SoonerNation evaluates the future at the position for Oklahoma. Here’s a look at one player who could be next in line to make a major impact, one player to keep an eye on and one current commitment who could be the future.

Next in line: Gabe Lynn. This season proved that Lynn may be a better fit at safety than cornerback. He has the size and physicality to excel at safety and is listed as Javon Harris’ backup at strong safety. With Julian Wilson’s strong play this season, safety might end up being the perfect fit for Lynn, while Wilson steps in at nickelback.

Keep an eye on: Quentin Hayes. Hayes was emerging at safety before his suspension last summer. If Tony Jefferson leaves, safety becomes a major need position. And if Hayes can redeem himself and return to the level he was at last spring, he could become a factor on OU’s defense next season.

On the trail: Hatari Byrd (Fresno, Calif./Central East). He seems poised to make an immediate impact with safety as a major need position for OU and Byrd displaying the talents to help early in his career. Don’t be surprised if he earns a role in OU’s defense as a true freshman.

Summary: Safety is arguably the biggest question mark on the roster outside of Lynn and Wilson. After seeing Jefferson and Harris anchor the defense this season, OU could be looking to replace both heading into 2013. And they don’t have a plethora of young, talented safeties already on campus and ready to step in. Mike Stoops has proven ability to put together quality secondaries, which should lessen the concern from Sooners fans. Nonetheless, this is a position that needs a boost on Signing Day in February and needs some players who are already on campus to seize the opportunity to become key members of OU’s defense.