He started five of the first six games at nickel back before making a shift to cornerback, where he started back-to-back games.
After some struggles there, though, Bowman’s role in the defense was greatly reduced.
Now in Brent Venables’ defense, Bowman is settling into a defined role as a safety.
“I get why he played three positions last year as a true freshman. (He’s) incredibly talented, great instincts, tremendous skill set, great toughness, very intelligent, can do a lot of things,” Venables said. “We’re just trying to get him to be really good at one thing.
“Sometimes when you do too much too soon, everything’s neutralized — all your ability, your instincts, your intelligence.”
Bowman said last season was difficult for him.
“It was, at points, frustrating, but I was able to fight through it and have a great mindset and learn everything I could and do the best that I can.”
Venables said Bowman’s ability to work in space and show off his man-to-man coverage skills made him a good fit at safety.
“I feel more natural at safety, being able to read the whole field and be on top of everything,” Bowman said. “But I can play anything. I did it at the high-school level. I can do it here. I did it last year.”
Drake Stoops then and now
Every day at practice, Venables gets a reminder that his job is about more than just winning football games.
That reminder comes from seeing wide receiver Drake Stoops on the field.
Venables remembers vividly Stoops running around at practice imitating his favorite players when Stoops’ dad, Bob, was the Sooners’ head coach and Venables the defensive coordinator.
“Reminds me of being around my own sons, knowing what their dreams are, watching ’em as little kids, pretending they were Mark Clayton, some of those guys,” Venables said. “We had some amazing players. It’s a reminder to me that these are people’s kids. They’re on their journey. It’s not all about just winning. There’s more to it than that, but when you can help facilitate all their dreams on and off the field.
“It’s a reminder, too, that his dad’s around, and he’s got a statue out here out front, and he’s the reason I was afforded the opportunity to come in the first place, because of their family.”
Stoops has carved out a role with the Sooners, rising from a little-used walk-on to a steady piece of the receiver rotation.
“One of the most humble, hard-working, tough (players),” Venables said. “He’s a high-performer. He overdelivers with everything, on and off the field. We’ve seen other young people in his position have a sense of entitlement, want something for nothing. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. Just a great person, a great teammate.”
Venables has taken to using a microphone at practice.
“You can’t hear me,” Venables said. “I gotta scream. Somebody allowed ’em to have music at practice. I gotta scream over it.”
Venables said the use of the mic helps communicate during what can be hectic times at practice.
“Trying to be efficient,” he said. “I can’t be everywhere at once. That group over on the other field has to hear me.”
Defensive end Reggie Grimes said Venables’ being mic’d up adds to the culture of accountability Venables is creating.
“Sometimes you are the guy who gets called out, and that’s OK because again, it’s a culture of accountability,” Grimes said. “If you do mess up, then don’t mess up the same thing twice. We’ll get it corrected the next day and don’t make that mistake again.”
Spring-game format up in the air
Venables said he wasn’t sure what the format of the spring game, scheduled for April 23, would look like quite yet.
“We’ll figure that out as we continue to move forward,” he said. “Lot of that just depends on how the spring goes. You’ve got your thoughts on what you’re experienced with, our depth and development will determine that. It’ll be a fun time.”
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU football: Billy Bowman settling in at safety after bouncing around