The day's practice
Venables: Good effort, staying focused, guys are hungry, a lot of guys feel like they've got a lot to prove -- just a willingness to work and to stay the course and pay attention, invest every day. I'm not seeing a lot of regression, which is good, mentally nor physically. Really competed hard today. I'm happy to see that.
Linebacker talent similar here than what was at Oklahoma?
Venables: I don't want to compare, but it's very good. It's very good. I really like their attitude. There are enough guys that have played. It's a group that's got good experience. It's a group that's got good football intelligence. We're just working on a lot of little things right now. Just trying to develop guys and develop a two-deep and find out who can do what, what their strengths are and what they need to work on. It's a reflection of a lot of guys having a great attitude and a hunger and willingness to work, to get better.
Is it still a steady rotation at linebacker? Will that be going on throughout the spring?
Venables: Just kind of mixing and matching, working different packages, still trying to massage it. The good thing is I don't feel empty handed. There's enough guys with enough different skill sets that can complement each other well and give us things that we need to be successful.
What is your timeline for getting your defense installed?
Venables: I don't have a percentage -- not a whole lot. I think we've got a good foundation in, a foundation that you can win with. All those schemes and everything else aren't really good if you don't have attitude, toughness, intelligence, guys playing with effort and the fundamentals. Trying to get all those things to become second-nature, to develop that type of mindset and that culture -- that daily and weekly investment that it takes, to just get our guys to invest in the process of how you play well individually and collectively. That's the most important thing to us, right now.
Travis Blanks and Cortez Davis
Venables: Cortez has got good length and Travis has length, intelligence and instincts. They're growing and getting better. I think they'll definitely both help us.
What's it been like to take your defense to a new place?
Venables: It's obviously different, because you're having to coach coaches and the older guys, so everybody's young that way. It forces me, individually, to kind of get out of my comfort zone. That's good and healthy for me, too, to take myself out if it and put everybody else, to get in their shoes and kind of see it from their perspective. So it's been very healthy for me, to really teach it in its purest form, in infant stages. The emphasis, more than anything, is to get our guys technically and fundamentally sound, to play physical. The schemes will come, at some point.
What's your take on the interior of the line?
Venables: I've been pleasantly surprised. I don't know if we have any Doberman Pinchers inside, but I think we've got some guys inside with some fight, with some toughness. It's coming along. It's developing. Game-ready yet, I don't know. We'll see. There are guys that you feel like you can definitely win with, even though we lost some experience inside. Defensive end is where I'm a little bit more concerned, to be honest. We've got some guys with some talent and ability, just not very deep there. I know we're not deep on experience inside, but I think we have a couple more players, depth-wise. The development with some down the line guys has got to really come along. At defensive end, we're really thin there.
Have you started to look at opponents?
Venables: There's good diversity in our conference. Obviously, look at Auburn. They've got great talent. They're two years removed from a national championship. They've got a lot of guys who are hungry and a bunch of guys who are coming back from a year ago. You look at Florida State, we got them early. They've got most of their team back. I have some familiarity. Some of their best players were freshmen that played at the end of the year. There are some we didn't face at Oklahoma, especially the skill set and some linemen. You look at Georgia Tech and the things that they do, it's so different than everybody else. Obviously, Virginia Tech, that program and the history that they have in this conference. It's pretty special. There's a change at North Carolina and what they're going to do, philosophically. They've always got good players. We lost to N.C. State. Heck of a game against Maryland, a dog fight. Wake Forest was a heck of a game as well. There's no real easy ones as you look at the schedule. More importantly than anything else, the real focus has been on us. We've got to get us taken care of first and foremost, see if we can get to that first game.
Wednesday night with Venables
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