The hype around first-year head coach Brent Venables is real. I don’t doubt that he will be successful at OU, but he has never been a head coach and it could take a couple of years for him to fine-tune things. If you disagree with me, do you remember Lincoln Riley‘s first year when he decided to squib kick before the half at the Rose Bowl, costing them three points, and ultimately losing by three?
Don’t get me wrong, I think Venables was a great hire for Oklahoma. He was very successful over his 10-year stint as the defensive coordinator at Clemson, winning two national championships to go along with his national championship while at OU. His defense over the last 10 years was ranked first nationally in sacks and opponent third-down conversion percentage, second in opponent pass efficiency rating and takeaways, third in scoring defense and opponent completion percentage, forth in total defense and pass defense, fifth in interceptions, and sixth in rushing defense. Since 2000, Venables has produced eight national award winners, 16 consensus All-Americans, and helped 57 defensive players reach their dreams of having their name called at the NFL Draft.
Venables has been very consistent throughout the last decade, with each of his last eight Clemson defenses being ranked in the top 15 nationally in yards allowed and seven of his last eight defenses have ranked in the top 20 in points allowed. During his tenure as defensive coordinator for the Tigers, Clemson ranked second nationally in scoring defense and red zone defense. The numbers that Clemson’s defenses have produced are pretty remarkable, helping them win conference titles each year from 2015-2020.
With all that being said, those numbers don’t mean that Venables will correlate to being a head coach. I am not taking away from the success that Venables has established as a defensive coordinator, being named the Frank Broyles Award winner in 2016 as the nation’s top assistant coach. But, the reality is there is so much more on a head coach’s plate.
Venables will not just be focused on the defense, we will get to see how he manages a game and if he can make halftime adjustments. Coaching becomes much easier when you surround yourself with great coordinators, but there is nothing easy. Venables is known for his energy on the sidelines, having to have his own get-back coach to keep him off the field.
The energy and passion Venables coaches with is something that can’t be hated on, but as a head coach, you have to be able to manage your emotions within the game. Will Venables be able to tone himself down when needed? That is something to keep an eye on as he enters his first year as a head coach.
As for recruiting, Venables has been an exceptional recruiter, being named Rivals.com‘s Recruiter of the Year back in 2015, but this doesn’t differ from what OU expects year in and year out, as they have had a top 20 recruiting class since 2001. Up until July, Oklahoma had the fourth-ranked recruiting class in the Big 12 but has jumped up to second in the Big 12 and seventh in the country, gaining momentum on the recruiting trail. It will take four years to see a complete Venables team and truly get an idea of what he is capable of doing recruiting-wise.
I am not saying that I think the Sooners will see themselves go through a slump, but I think they have gotten too much hype. After Lincoln Riley left Oklahoma high and dry and decided to leave for USC, it not only shocked OU fans, but the college football world. Fans of the Sooners were very outspoken about what they thought of their former coach, and it was apparent that they were worried about the future of their program. The tone Oklahoma fans changed once the news broke that they would be hiring a former OU defensive coordinator, who was apart of the 2000 national championship staff.
Oklahoma is the preseason favorite to win the Big 12. I have no problem with that, but I think that we could see the Sooners lose a game or two that they are expected to win. Oklahoma has been a powerhouse in the Big 12 for years, but the way Venables is being talked about before every winning a game is a bit of a stretch. I think Oklahoma made the best hire possible, and I love the way Venables has come in and tried to take the culture back to Oklahoma’s old ways, but being successful as a defensive coordinator and being successful as a head coach are two different things. I wish nothing but the best for the first-year head coach, I am just tired of seeing the abundant amount of expectations for Venables and Oklahoma.