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Mar. 23—Yells emerged from Lincoln Riley's office after Jeremiah Criddell announced his Oklahoma commitment during ESPN's signing day broadcast on Dec. 19, 2018.
Riley pumped his right fist repeatedly, let out a few roars and hugged a few of his staff members to celebrate Criddell's decision, which provided OU's 2019 signing class with a consensus four-star defensive back and a major recruiting win over the likes of Oregon, Washington, Notre Dame and Florida State.
A little over two years later, Criddell's time to justify Riley's reaction is closer than ever. The Sooners must replace several contributors in their secondary this fall, including nickelback Brendan Radley-Hiles, who transferred to Washington and started over Criddell last season, as well as NFL-bound defensive backs Tre Brown and Tre Norwood.
"Criddell's one that we're really excited to see this spring that really closed the season strong and has had a tremendous offseason," Riley said ahead of the Sooners' spring practices, which started Monday. "[He's] a guy that we've got a ton of confidence in right now."
Delarrin Turner-Yell, a veteran among OU's defensive backs, echoed Riley's sentiment.
Criddell played in three games his freshman year and appeared in 11 last season, which included a start against Baylor.
While the Santa Ana, California, product has yet to emerge as a primary option in OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch's rotation, he's won the trust of his teammates by how he's approached his first two years on campus.
"Anytime we have a break or something like that, and then we come back to do DB drills, or like right now, how we came back for spring ball," Turner-Yell said, "you always see some type of improvement from him."
Criddell's development from his first season to his next, however, isn't just good for any player.
Grinch, who's coached defense, and more specifically defensive backs, since 2005, isn't sure he's had a player that's improved more than Criddell.
"I don't know if there's anybody I've been around that's made a bigger jump between that first year and second year," Grinch said. "Really swimming the first year, and the second year, all of the sudden you are saying wait a second, if he can make that same jump, now we got one."
Entering his third year, OU's coaches and players aren't so worried about the mental aspect of Criddell's game. Putting it on the field will be his true test.
Turner-Yell isn't so worried about that either.
His expectation is that Criddell will give Riley plenty more moments to celebrate.
"He knows that when he sees something, it's time to go," Turner-Yell said. "He doesn't second guess himself at all. He's getting smarter. He's always improving whenever we have an offseason or some time away from the season, so Criddell, looking forward to him having a huge season and helping us out a lot on defense."
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