Oklahoma Sooners

Brent Venables on Oklahoma: ‘It’s a Special Place’

Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables called the Sooners “a special place” during his press conference at Big 12 Media Days on Thursday in Arlington.

Venables is entering his first season as head coach for the Sooners, but he’s entering his 14th season as a coach at Oklahoma. He served as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator for the Sooners under Bob Stoops starting in 1999. He helped the Sooners win a national championship before he moved to Clemson where he helped Dabo Swinney and the Tigers win two national championships as their defensive coordinator.

 

Venables has had plenty of chances to become a head coach as one of the game’s highest-paid and most respected coordinators. But, when the Oklahoma job opened and Sooners athletic director Joe Castiglione came to him about the job, he jumped at it.

“This was a very special opportunity,” Venables said. “Oklahoma has been near and dear to me.”

Venables said he took lessons from his former boss at Kansas State, hall-of-fame coach Bill Snyder, where Venables served as linebackers coach before he joined OU. He also played for Snyder at K-State, and he said when he took the job to work for Stoops, he left in an “emotional state.”

One of the lessons he said he learned from Snyder?

“I learned a long time ago from Bill, the grass isn’t always greener,” Venables said. “I wrote it down. That was in my coaching bible 101.”

So why leave K-State for Oklahoma at the time?

“When I left Kansas State, my last words to Bill were that I wanted an opportunity to coach at a place like Okahoma,” Venables said.

When that opportunity came around again, Venables couldn’t pass it up, even though he knows the job will be tough.

“Winning is hard, being consistent at the top is even harder,” Venables said. “Oklahoma exemplifies that. This place has a standard of excellence that takes a back seat to nobody.”

Oklahoma comes into 2022 as somewhat of a mystery in the Big 12 Conference. Last year’s squad went 11-2 and finished No. 10 in the Final AP Poll after a 47-32 victory over Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.

But, last season was the first time since 2014 that the Sooners didn’t win the Big 12 Championship, and it was the first time it failed to reach the Big 12 Championship Game since it was added back to the lineup in 2017 (Baylor and Oklahoma State made the title game, with Baylor winning).

Once the regular season ended, things got weird in Norman when Lincoln Riley left for USC and took the entire defensive staff and several blue-chip recruits with him.

The Sooners hired Brent Venables. He brought in a hand-picked staff that included offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby and defensive coordinator Ted Roof. After Venables’ arrival, OU went to the portal to address some roster issues and added several key pieces including quarterback Dillon Gabriel (UCF), defensive tackle Jeffery Johnson (Tulane), defensive end Jonah Laulu, cornerback Kani Walker (Louisville), and cornerback Trey Morrison (North Carolina).

 

Oklahoma does return several pieces from last year’s offense, including three starters along the offensive line and an experienced pass-catcher in Marvin Mims. The Sooners hope that former five-star recruit Theo Wease is fully healthy and can assume some of the receiving load. Eric Gray headlines a solid running back room that also adds instant impact players in freshman Jovantae Barnes and Gavin Sawchuk.

Defensively, Oklahoma’s entire secondary returns, with starting corners Woodi Washington and DJ Graham coming back. DeShaun White and David Ugwoegbu return at linebacker, and along with Appalachian State transfer T.D. Roof, give the Sooners experience in the middle. Up front, Oklahoma will have to replace three NFL draft picks, but look to get production out of promising pieces in Ethan Downs and Reggie Grimes.

Oklahoma opens up the season on Sept. 3 at home against UTEP and then hosts Kent State the following week before traveling to Nebraska.

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