New OU safeties thriving in starting roles

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

NORMAN, Okla. -- The biggest question mark about Oklahoma's defense will be the addition of two new safeties -- the only new starters on the Sooners' defense.

Strong safety Nic Harris and free safety Lendy Holmes provided a certain level of comfort when they combined for 164 tackles, six interceptions and 10 deflected passes. Harris was a first-team All-Big 12 selection and Holmes was a second-team choice.

Both are now gone. But despite that glaring hole, their teammates say that are comfortable about their replacements.

Junior Quinton Carter has been a revelation at strong safety with a physical presence that belies his 6-foot-2, 192-pound stature that is small for his position.

Carter's devastating hit against Missouri's Jeremy Maclin in last season's Big 12 championship already earned him a lot of notoriety around the league. But he's progressing past merely a reputation as a hitter into a heady producer who has the confidence of his teammates.

"We don't consider Q a new guy," Oklahoma cornerback Dominique Franks said. "He's been back there three or four years and knows our system. He's also started for us for a few games and we didn't miss a beat."

Sophomore Sam Proctor has the edge at free safety in the only new starters on the Oklahoma defense. Their experiences have brought a comfort level to the Sooners' defense as they continue preseason practice.

Franks said that he would change his coverage if he didn't trust his help from his safeties. But the progression of Carter and Proctor enable him to play with abandon in the secondary, he says.

"It would make you afraid to jump a lot of routes, but knowing you have a veteran guy like Q or Proctor lets you play a little differently," Franks said. "They've been in the system and we know they can play. A lot of fans might not know if they play, but we know it. We trust them. It gives me or Brian (senior cornerback Brian Jackson) confidence to take a chance and jump a route. Having them makes it a lot easier for our corners."