As spring turns to summer and we see the temperatures start to rise around the country, there is one thing on college football fans’ minds: there are “X” days left until college football returns.
With Big 12 Media Days just right around the corner on July 13-14, preview season is in full swing and every fanbase across the nation has hope that their team will live up to the hype, or prove the talking heads wrong.
With that spirit in mind, here are three questions about Brent Venables and the Oklahoma Sooners ahead of Big 12 Media Days.
When Will the Recruiting Flood Gates Open?
Oklahoma fans have been watching the party going on south of the Red River for just about a week now, and it is starting to create some anxiety around Sooner Nation in regards to Brent Venables and his staff’s style of recruiting. Venables wants his players to value the word “commit” at face value, not what it has become in today’s recruiting world. The world of commits flipping and taking visits after committing to a school isn’t something that Oklahoma fans will likely have to worry about under this regime.
Venables has been on record saying that the month of July will be big for the Sooners, and it will need to be for them to keep pace with their arch rivals. Steve Sarkisian and the Longhorns have put together the best recruiting class in the country to this point, while Oklahoma is sitting at No. 42 in the country at the time of this article. We expect that to change in a big way, but for now OU Twitter is on pins and needles.
With several big names set to announce their commitments in July, it is expected that the Sooners will jump into the Top 10 for 2023 recruiting rankings and that wouldn’t be surprising at all given the names they are in for. However, if July passes by without big movement for the Schooner, there might just be problems on the recruiting trail in Norman.
Can New Faces Replicate Lost Production?
Oklahoma had perhaps the most extensive turnover on its roster and coaching staff of any team in the country over the offseason. Gone are Lincoln Riley and his prodigious quarterback Caleb Williams, along with several other key names like Kennedy Brooks, Jaden Haselwood, and Mario Williams. The entire defensive staff left as well, along with several key defenders from last season, such as Perrion Winfrey, Isaiah Thomas, Nik Bonitto, and Brian Asamoah.
While those are no small losses, the Oklahoma staff feels very good about the talent it has on the roster, plus what it was able to bring in through the transfer portal. QB Dillon Gabriel highlights the list of transfers, as well as several key defensive names like CB Trey Morrison, DL Jeffery Johnson, and DE Jonah La’ulu. The expectation is that Oklahoma’s defense will be improved under Venables right away, and the coaching staff he has assembled makes it easy to believe.
Offensively, Jeff Lebby now has the reins and will look to implement a heavy zone scheme that made him successful at both UCF and Ole Miss. Oklahoma has some horses offensively, with names like Eric Gray, Jovantae Barnes, Jalil Farooq, and Marvin Mims turning heads in spring ball. If Oklahoma can find a way to get production from new faces, the pieces are in place for the Sooners to be at the top again.
Can Brent Venables Win Right Away?
Brent Venables has been a college football coach for 30 years, but he’s only worked three places in that time: Kansas State, Oklahoma, and Clemson. He’s also never been a head coach, having learned under three Hall of Fame level mentors: Bill Snyder, Bob Stoops, and Dabo Swinney. In that time, he has to have learned a thing or two about being a head ball coach.
Venables has done nothing but draw rave reviews in Norman and all signs point to the first-year head coach having success right away. Now, the question is, what does success look like for the Sooners in Year 1 under Venables. 12-0? 10-2? How about 9-3? I think expectations are a bit tempered in Norman, but by tempered I mean still competing for a Big 12 title, maybe just not a Playoff spot in 2022.
Venables has a winning pedigree, as he has never been a part of a losing season in his three decades of experience. Doing that in 2022 would be wildly disappointing and perhaps even shocking. If you are drinking the Kool-Aid that the Sooners are magically going to fall off a cliff and into disparity, you might want to pour out your Solo Cup and grab some water. While nothing has been proven on the field just yet, folks around Norman believe that Venables will win early and often. Now, we just wait and see.