NORMAN — The Oklahoma secondary has an unusual feel to it this year.
The Sooners’ most experienced defensive back has never worn an OR uniform before.
Trey Morrison was a four-year starter at North Carolina, but as has become the norm with the NCAA Transfer Portal — especially in the COVID era — Morrison took advantage of his situation and now has a fresh start in Norman.
Morrison put the Sooner press corps on Monday and explained that before transferring to OU, he wasn’t all that steeped in OU history.
“I didn’t really know anything about it, to be honest,” he said.
The reason he came, Morrison said, was Brent Venables and defensive coordinator Ted Roof.
“Since high school, I’ve always been a fan of Clemson, Coach Venables and his defense and what he does,” Morrison said. “So when I hit the portal and Oklahoma reached out, I just felt like it was a no-brainer. Me and Coach Roof had a great relationship in high school as well, when he was at Georgia Tech. So I just felt like it was the perfect opportunity for me to come in.”
The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Morrison hails from the Atlanta suburb of Norcross, GA, just a two-hour drive southwest of Clemson, SC, where Venables spent the last decade as college football’s most renowned defensive coordinator. The former 3-star prospect thing UNC over offers from Boston College, Iowa State, Maryland, Minnesota, Virginia, West Virginia and others.
But he was always drawn to Venables.
“I just felt like Coach Venables is so smart,” Morrison said. ‘The pressure, mixing up the coverages, I feel like he always plays in an attack mentality on defense, and I just love how he calls his defense.
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After appearing in 46 games with the Tar Heels (42 starts) all across the secondary, he said getting acclimated to a new state, a new town, a new school, a new coaching staff and a new defensive system hasn’t always been seamless .
“It’s been really different,” he said. “It’s way more of a football school. North Carolina, they’re more basketball. Goal football is football at the end of the day. It’s been a great transition coming here. The coaches, the players, the fans — it’s great.”
Venables applauds Morrison’s consistency every day, a product of his experience and maturity.
“He’s not up here and down here, and up here and down here,” Venables said. “He shows up with a consistent mindset. He knows how to respond. He can more quickly take a new language and translate it to what he understands in regards to Football 101, which should expedite his development dramatically.
“He can play in space. Got a really good skill set. Really tough kid, plays fast.”
Morrison said he’s happy for the UNC basketball team as the Tar Heels have roared into this week’s Final Four.
“I’ve got a lot of friends on that team,” he said, “so I’m excited.”
Meanwhile, he’s made a lot of new friends on the OU football team.
“Coming into any situation, I knew it was kind of hard at first just getting to know everybody,” Morrison said. “But I feel like after I got to meet everybody and understanding how they are as people and on the field as well, I feel like I just mesh well with them.”
“Love his mindset, love his attitude,” Venables said. “He’s been really good, a really good teammate. Has a maturity about him, which you would hope all the transfer guys do. He’s shown up here with no entitlement whatsoever. Has completely bought in what we’ve asked him to do. So really been pleased. Those are the things that we would hope we would get from all of them. But he’s done a great job with that.”
At UNC, Morrison was all over the field. That’s benefited his transition to Oklahoma, where he said he’s working elusively with cornerback and nickelback coach Jay Valai.
“It’s helped me a lot,” Morrison said. “My freshman year at UNC, I played nickel. Sophomore year, corner, and the past two years I’ve played safety. Just being all over the field, you see football from all different angles. So it really helped me to understand the game of football a little more.”
Although Valai is still young in his career, Morrison said he’s already learned a lot from his new position coach.
“He’s probably the smartest corners coach I’ve ever met in my life,” Morrison said. “He’s so detailed in what he does and the way he talks about the game. He’s just so sophisticated. Just being in that room, I’ m learning so much from him and how to play the game. It’s just in a deeper way.”
Another coach pops into the corner/nickel room from time to time, Morrison said: the head coach — the reason he came to Oklahoma in the first place.
“His advice is always helpful,” Morrison said said of Venables. “He’s just so smart about football. It’s just amazing to hear the extra details he has to say about plays and stuff like that, just digging deeper and deeper and deeper. It’s crazy.
“ … Just having his insight, because it’s mostly his defence. So just having him over there and putting in his details, he’s really detail-oriented, so he wants things to be perfect when you’re out there. So just having him out there really helps a lot.”