Brendan Radley-Hiles provided the first glimpse of how he might fare against collegiate competition while participating in Oklahoma’s spring football practices several months ago.
Now, it’s practically common knowledge that the freshman shows promise.
Praise for Radley-Hiles arrived in waves from the highly touted defensive back's coaches and teammates, to the point where compliments bordered redundancy.
“He’s very gifted. The game comes easy to him. He’s easy to coach. He’s not one of those guys that you have to coach every foot on the field,” OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “He’s not struggling to process it all.”
Defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks was asked about Radley-Hiles more than anyone else. After the spring game had concluded, and with many of the usual questions already answered, Cooks tried to encapsulate his view once more.
“Listen, I don’t know what Bookie’s potential can be,” Cooks said, using Radley-Hiles’ preferred nickname. “I can just tell you he’s a good football player. And [the spring game], hopefully, gave you guys a glimpse of what we’ve been seeing since he’s been here.
“Everything happens easy for him. He’s patient. He’s calm. He just kind of understands where the ball is going to be and how to get there and make plays. He is just one of those guys that has a knack for putting himself into position to make plays.”
Reporters who cover Big 12 football bought into Radley-Hiles’ high stock, voting him the preseason conference newcomer of the year. He was OU’s only full-time defensive player listed when the league’s preseason team and individual accolades were released Wednesday.
The Sooners occupied a conference-best seven spots on the team. Running back Rodney Anderson, wide receiver Marquise Brown, tight end Grant Calcaterra, offensive tackle Bobby Evans and offensive guard Ben Powers all made the offensive team, while Austin Seibert landed on offense as a placekicker and defense as a punter.
OU’s six offensive picks doubled the next highest total. West Virginia, led by preseason offensive player of the year Will Grier, had three selections.
But out of 32 total players selected, only Radley-Hiles is a freshman. He has yet to see one snap, and still edged two other leading newcomer of the year candidates: transfers Calvin Anderson (Texas) and receiver Jalen Hurd (Baylor).
Anderson, a left tackle, was hailed as one of the nation’s best graduate-transfer targets before picking the Longhorns. Hurd, who is switching positions, started 20 games in the Southeastern Conference between his sophomore and junior seasons as Tennessee’s running back.
The hype about Radley-Hiles trumped both of them.
He arrived in Norman with a short-stack build of 5-9, 187 pounds as OU’s first Rivals.com five-star defensive back signee since 2002, after intercepting five passes and forcing two fumbles his senior season at IMG Academy.
Even under a media embargo that is common for freshman, Radley-Hiles managed to grab plenty of headlines during his first months on campus.
He is expected to play nickelback or safety, where he spent most of the spring, but can play anywhere in the secondary.
“He understands concepts well,” Stoops said. “Once he sees things, he learns awfully quick and he’s intent with what he wants to do. He’s very focused. He’s got a lot of improving to do, but he’s definitely on the right track.”
Offensive Player of the Year Will Grier QB West Virginia
Defensive Player of the Year Ben Banogu DL TCU
Newcomer of the Year Brendan Radley-Hiles DB Oklahoma
Offense Name School Ht Wt Class
QB Will Grier West Virginia 6-2 212 Sr
RB David Montgomery Iowa State 5-11 216 Jr
RB Rodney Anderson Oklahoma 6-1 220 Jr
RB Justice Hill Oklahoma State 5-10 185 Jr
WR Denzel Mims Baylor 6-3 209 Jr
WR Marquise Brown Oklahoma 5-10 168 Jr
WR David Sills V West Virginia 6-4 204 Sr
TE Grant Calcaterra Oklahoma 6-4 221 So
OL Dalton Risner Kansas State 6-5 300 Sr
OL Bobby Evans Oklahoma 6-5 301 Jr
OL Ben Bowers Oklahoma 6-4 313 Sr
OL Marcus Keyes Oklahoma State 6-3 309 Jr
OL yodny Cajuste West Virginia 6-5 321 Sr
PK Austin Seibert Oklahoma 5-9 214 Sr
KR-PR KaVontae Turpin TCU 5-9 157 Sr
Defense Name School Ht Wt Class
DL JaQuan Bailey Iowa State 6-2 251 Jr
DL Daniel Wise Kansas 6-3 290 Sr
DL Jordan Brailford Oklahoma State 6-3 250 Jr
DL Ben Banogu TCU 6-4 249 Sr
DL Breckyn Hager Texas 6-3 255 Sr
LB Joe Dineen Jr. Kansas 6-2 235 Sr
LB Dakota Allen Texas Tech 6-1 235 Sr
LB David Long Jr. West Virginia 5-11 221 Jr
DB Brian Peavy Iowa State 5-9 194 Sr
DB Kendall Adams Kansas State 6-1 228 Sr
DB Kris Boyd Texas 6-0 195 Sr
DB Jah’Shawn Johnson TexasTech 5-10 185 Sr
DB Justus Parker Texas Tech 6-0 205 Jr
P Austin Seibert Oklahoma 5-9 214 Sr