No. 5 safety Washington chooses OU over Texas

When Oklahoma landed ESPN 300 safety Bryson Washington on July 4, head coach Lincoln Riley tweeted that the fireworks were starting early for the Sooners.

Riley can't directly name recruits or announce commitments, but the tweet was directed at Washington's decision to choose Oklahoma over rival Texas. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Washington, ranked No. 5 at his position by ESPN, confirmed his decision Thursday.

Washington, who is from Houston, had narrowed his choices to the two Big 12 rivals and said he didn't come to a decision until the morning of his announcement.

"It was just the school. I feel like I could start something big at Oklahoma," Washington said. "We could do something that hasn't been done in years at Oklahoma. What we could do on defense could be the leading factor of them winning a lot more games and maybe even a national championship."

Improving the defense was a big pitch from the Oklahoma coaches, especially from new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. The Sooners ranked 129th among all FBS programs in passing yards allowed per game and Grinch and the defensive coaches have made a big effort to turn that around, partially through recruiting.

Washington is one of three ESPN 300 defensive backs, along with Ryan Watts and Dontae Manning, in this class and Grinch has had a big impact on all of them choosing the Sooners.

For Washington in particular, it helped Oklahoma that he and Grinch had an existing relationship when Grinch was coaching with Ohio State.

"We've been talking back then and now leading over here [at Oklahoma] and the communication has grown better and better," Washington said. "I was already liking Oklahoma before, but when Coach Grinch got the job, it was icing on the cake. I'm used to coaches in high school that are younger and you can joke with, but once it's time to be serious you're locked in, and that's how Coach Grinch is."

That relationship helped push Oklahoma over Texas in what turned into a back-and-forth battle down to the wire, with both staffs coming after the talented safety.

Washington knew the Oklahoma defense has performed below par the past few seasons, but knowing that Grinch was now on the staff and that the defensive improvement was a big focus, he saw it as an opportunity, rather than a weakness.

"I already feel like, as the recruits are coming in, we'll be able to make a big impact on defense," Washington said. "Coach Riley is a great coach and is always going to coach up the offense, but with Coach Grinch coming in, it's going to make them a great team. It will make us an even better team and maybe we can win a couple championships."