It could be said that having faith can help one through their most challenging times. When things seem bleak, it is that inner and spiritual belief that can help one persevere through adversity.
In 2019, rookie Tre Norwood's faith was tested as a knee injury sidelined him for the entire season. For a player like Norwood, who never missed with the University of Oklahoma up to the point, his faith helped him overcome the emotional struggles he faced. In retrospect, that injury not only made him a stronger person, it made him a better player. Norwood transformed into a greater form of what he once was.
In his freshman year with the Sooners, Norwood was featured in 14 games as a cornerback. In addition to leading the team with eight passes defended, he finished with 30 total tackles. The following year, Norwood would increase his total tackles to 58, tying for fifth on the team. He would also add five passes defended, a sack, an interception, and two tackles for loss. After being sidelined in his junior year with a knee injury, Norwood returned for his senior year, in which he made the transition from cornerback to safety. In just five starts, Norwood registered a career-high five interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. His five interceptions tied him third nationally and tied him for the lead in the Big 12 Conference. Norwood would finish his collegiate career with 111 total tackles, 14 passes defended, six interceptions, and one sack.
What defines Norwood as a player is his versatility. Whether he is positioned as a safety, nickel or outside cornerback, Norwood has demonstrated his ability to be productive.
In general, ball skills is an attribute that cannot necessarily be taught. In Norwood's case, his ball skills dramatically improved the year following his injury. With evolving football traits and the versatility to play multiple position, Norwood is the type of player whose value will continue to increase as he acclimates to NFL-level competition.
Making The Most Of Opportunities
Norwood five interceptions in 2020 were no fluke, as he was one of the most opportunistic defensive backs in college football that season. His ability to track the ball and make a plays was a big reason for his success. Worth noting, as a cornerback, Norwood was not nearly as proficient in this domain, the move to safety benefitted him greatly.
In this sequence against Texas Tech, Norwood is seen at the strong safety position on the left side. When the ball is snapped, the Sooner's edge rusher does a good job obstructing the Red Raiders' quarterback's throwing lane. Even though he can get his pass through the defender, it is too hard for the Red Raiders' receiver to handle. The pass deflected off his shoulder pads, and into the waiting arms of Norwood, his second interception of the game. This is an example of being in the right place at the right time.
Instincts as a defensive back is an attribute that cannot always be taught. Yet for some players, like Norwood, a change in position can help trigger this dimension within a player. Last season, Norwood had a knack for knowing where and when to position himself to play, hence one of the reasons he finished third in the nation in interceptions.
In this sequence, the Baylor receiver executes a curl route, but as he reaches the end of his route, he slips. At that moment, Norwood makes his move towards the ball and takes it ways. Sometimes instincts is as simple of knowing when to the time is right to be aggressive. With Norwood, there is little wasted motion on this play.
A knack For The Ball
One thing we learned watching Norwood on film is that he is a detail-oriented player. Pre-snap, Norwood constantly has his eyes on the quarterback. Secondly, he stays patient while reading the quarterback to decide his next move. Once he has determined what play is being executed, he makes his move and more often than not, he found himself in the right position to make a play.
The best example of this was his pick-six against Florida quarterback Kyle Trask. From the very beginning, Norwood, seen in the nickel spot, has his eye on Trask. Even when the ball is snapped, Norwood stays focused on Trask. Worth noting is the way he kept his eyes on Trask while running the Gators receiver's route. Once the ball is released his direction, he jumps the routes and intercepts the ball into the end zone. When we talk about ball skills, Norwood displays a natural ability to track and make plays in this regard.
Norwood is the classic late-bloomer who has yet to reach his full potential. His position versatility will surely give him some opportunities, but to become a full-time starter, he will need to improve parts of his game that ails him, such as supporting the run and his struggles in coverage. There is no question he is a work in progress, but he should not be overlooked as someone who could someday become an important contributor.