Tony Jefferson has lined up at safety during the first two weeks of Oklahoma’s spring practice. The junior has been a starter at OU since his freshman season but spent the majority of his time as a hybrid linebacker near the line of scrimmage allowing him to make plays in opposing backfields.
“That’s where we feel like we can utilize his abilities and his strengths,” said new defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. “Tony is a very, very talented player. He can be good anywhere he plays. He’s very easy to coach, highly instinctual and is a tremendous tackler.”
And Jefferson, who was third on the team with 74 tackles in 2011, is getting comfortable as the last line of defense for OU.
“I like being back at safety,” Jefferson said. “I’m able to come down and hit people on the run and also play the pass. It’s a lot more instinctive.”
The safety position is much different than playing near the line of scrimmage, but it’s a challenge that Jefferson invites.
“Playing [safety] and getting beaten is the hardest position on the field,” said Jefferson, who recorded four interceptions last season. “You’re that anticipator going against guys who know where they have to go, where they need to be.”
By all accounts, Jefferson has been one of the Sooners who has stepped up since the end of last season. He’s taken a leadership role on the defense with the goal of becoming part of the foundation of the 2012 team.
“He’s been very efficient, very productive,” Stoops said. “I’m as pleased with him as anyone I’ve seen. I knew he was good but I didn’t realize he was this good.”
Even though his new coach is already praising him, Jefferson understands praise means nothing without production.
“It feels good,” Jefferson said. “He expects me to be a leader but I need to, not only lead these guys, [but] I have to play well.”