Baylor Bears

Dave Aranda on Brent Venables: ‘He Has The Courage to Let It Rip’

Baylor head coach Dave Aranda is a big admirer of new Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables, who spoke first at Big 12 Media Days on Thursday in Arlington.

Aranda and Venables have plenty in common, as both were long-time defensive assistants and coordinators before getting their head-coaching jobs. Aranda took over at Baylor in 2020.

Venables is familiar to Big 12 fans because of his time working for Bob Stoops at Oklahoma as his defensive coordinator. But, after OU, Venables moved on to serve as the defensive coordinator at Clemson under Dabo Swinney. There, Venables helped the Tigers win two national championships.

 

Aranda talked on Wednesday about Venables’ having the “…courage to let it rip.” He was talking about Venables’ openness to change when it comes to defense. Both he and Venables faced that decision a few years ago, back when Aranda was the defensive coordinator at LSU.

Back then, Aranda was considering a switch to the 3-3-5 defense.

“We would bring people in to speak about it, and no one else had really run that except for a few other small colleges,” Aranda said. “And I remember thinking, ‘You know, we should do this and we’ll be really the only team outside of those small schools (to use it).’ I kind of chickened out. I didn’t do it. But Brent did. I think that speaks to him. That’s it. That’s him. He’s not unafraid of that stuff. That’s going to really do well for him. He has that type of courage and ability to kind of let it rip. And I feel like culture-wise he is a great fit.”

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 then hired 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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