NORMAN — Sophomore cornerback Parnell Motley has received rave reviews from coaches and teammates this spring for the progress he's made since the end of last season. Motley backed up the compliments early in OU's April 8 spring game when he blanketed speedy receiver Marquise Brown on a deep sideline pattern and out-battled him for the ball en route to an impressive interception.
The quarterback on that play? Heisman finalist Baker Mayfield.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Motley blends confidence with humility. The Washington, D.C., product knows he's good, but he's also fully aware of the improvement he still needs to make.
Relegated primarily to special teams play in his 11 games as a freshman when he wore No. 15, Motley, who now dons No. 11, is aiming to see the field a lot more in 2017. To do that, he's likely going to have to unseat one of his best friends in fellow sophomore cornerback Jordan Parker. Motley started in the spring game while Parker missed the contest due to a foot injury.
1. You're wrapping up your first year at OU. How would you rate your experience so far, both on and off the field?
"My experience has been good. I'm still adapting as days go by. I've just been getting used to the new environment each and every day. On the field, I'm just working every day and keeping my mind on the main object, which is just to get better."
2. What stands out the most to you about the 2016 season, either on a personal level or from a team standpoint?
"Just finally getting comfortable within the system; moving around and getting a feel for being out there on the field. It really took me about until the bowl game to do that."
3. Where have you made the most progress and what are you predicting for yourself next season?
"I think I made the most progress just in making plays and understanding the system. I'm looking forward to being an even better player next year than I am now. I'm just going to keep striving for greatness."
4. In what areas do you want to improve before the season opener against UTEP?
"I want to improve my technique and to get stronger."
5. What happened on your interception in the spring game? Describe how that played out.
"I saw open field and I just had to protect what's mine — my island. I just did what I do best, which is play my technique, stay on top of the receiver and make a play with my ball skills. I knew I would come down with it. I was like, 'This is my moment, this is my time right here.' I've been doing it all my life, so I was really comfortable jumping in the air and grabbing the ball."
6. Did you say anything to Baker afterward?
"Nope, I just kept it humble. He just took it on the chin and we both looked to the next play. There were more plays to come, so I didn't really have a chance to brag or bring it up to him."
7. You've got quite a few guys coming back on defense, particularly in the secondary. How do you think the defense will perform next year compared to last year?
"I think our defense will be way better, especially with how we finished last year. We do not want to be in the same position we were for (a good part of) last year. We've got a lot of veterans returning, guys like Steven Parker, who will lead us to our greatest destiny."
8. Coaches and teammates have said good things about you this spring. What's your mindset as spring practice is wrapping up?
"My mindset is to just keep competing as if it was the first practice. Don't let up. Just keep working to get better every day, and I'm going to do that all the way up to next fall."
9. What are your thoughts on moving into the new locker room and the new facilities in general?
"Oh man, I love it. I can't wait to get in there. I saw pictures on the OU Twitter account and it looks amazing. Can't wait to get in that new environment with the guys."
10. You have some experience from your high school days with returning punts. Is that something you'd like to try to do here at OU?
"Of course. I'm really looking forward to being in that mix. I was actually catching punts at the start of spring practice, then kind of dialed it down and wanted to focus on my position more. But I'm really looking forward to catching and returning more punts in the fall."
11. What are you like away from football? How would you describe yourself to people who've never met you?
"I just like to cool with my friends, catch good vibes, go out to eat and things like that. Just have a good time. And sometimes I like to talk about my football life. Just focus.
"I'm really close with Jordan Parker. We hang around and just kick it, talk about how we're going to take over and be better next year."
12. Jordan started the last eight games at corner last year and you're gunning for more playing time at that position as well. Do you guys have a friendly competition going? How do you approach that with someone you're competing against but are also very close to?
"What's on the field stays on the field and what's off the field stays off the field. When we're off the field we're buddies but when we're on the field it's work, it's competing. That's how the coaches want us to be and that's how it is."