NORMAN, Okla. – With All-American Lance Mitchell out for the year with a torn ACL, it is the job of Co-Defensive Coordinator and Linebacker Coach Brent Venables to get his replacement or replacements ready. Coach Venables agreed to sit down with OUInsider.com and talk about his options for Mitchell's replacement in the latest installment of our two minute drill.
JH: With Lance out you are trying to get four inexperienced linebackers ready to play, so how is that coming along?
BV: "I am just trying to give everyone an equal opportunity to show what they can do so they can show how much they can process, react and make plays. I am trying a number of combinations, and with that said I am trying to do it without beating Teddy (Lehman) up to much physically and mentally. It is a work in progress and we are making progress, but right now there are a number of guys who are pretty much all even."
JH: Do you have enough reps in the day to get your young guys ready?
BV: "Not really. I wish we had another week of practice. But I say that knowing that we are going to be fine. We will find somebody and it might be a few guys kind of rotating a little bit trying to see what they can handle. We will have a gameplan that they can execute by Saturday."
JH: Do you think UCLA or any other team for that matter will try to take advantage of the fact that Mitchell is no longer in your lineup."
BV: "Not much, because we won't have a glowing weakness at middle linebacker now. We will have somebody that is able to execute our defense and fit into our defense like we need them to. They may or may not make those special plays, as that remains to be seen. We will find somebody that we know can at least make the plays that we need them to make."
JH: What does it mean to fully replace Lance?
BV: "It is a culmination of a number of factors. It is communicating out on the field and executing. That is pretty much what it comes down to. It is as simple as that — knowing what we want them to do, knowing what we are asking of them, and then getting them out there and processing it while still being an aggressive, confident player."
JH: How important is it for you to say that it is business as usual?
BV: "Well, you have to, because the players have to be believe that you believe in them. Again, I have seen these guys enough to know that a two is a two for a reason. However, at the same time that doesn't say that he is light years away from the one's. I think we have enough quality guys that we can find the guy that we need in ample time. But again, it might be two or three guys in a rotating basis."
JH: Your defense is so good because each guy has an assignment each play. So, are the assignments the most important thing for the new players to know?
BV: "You are correct. Players knowing what they are supposed to do, and what they need to do in each defense is everything to our defense. That is especially true in our run defense — that we can make people one-dimensional. Then we have other options, like whether you use a six DB package or a five DB package, where if you need to you can remove one of the linebackers. So, there are some things that we can help ourselves with if we can stop the run."
JH: When you signed Lewis Baker he was 190 pounds and you immediately thought that he was a redshirt, but now that has changed.
BV: "He got here at 190 pounds at the beginning of the summer, but he knew that too. However, he was on an accelerated program to try to gain some weight and he has. He has gained close to 20 pounds, all the while going through two-a-days and the first month of practices. That being said, in a perfect world you would prefer him to be about 235 pounds right now, but he is not. So, all he has to do is keep his inside or outside arm free, and we are not asking him to stuff a 240 pound fullback. We need an outside backer to stay outside of him and it is really that simple. He might get thrown around a little bit, but that will be good for him. He just needs to protect his gap and he needs to throw his body somehow or someway into a gap."
JH: Baker's speed and quickness are his main assets aren't they?
BV: "He has a great feel for the game. He has just a real natural feel. He is a quick, quick learner and then when he knows what he is doing he plays really fast. That is a real advantage for him and has really accelerated his opportunities out there on the field."
JH: Is his football IQ real high?
BV: "Yes, his understanding of football is very high.His IQ has a great deal to do with that. That and the way he was taught to play the game in high school were important to him. I know his high school coaches personally and they did a fantastic job with him in understanding the game, formations and what people try to do in certain situations. He just has a good understanding of the game. I don't have to coach him a whole lot in that way."
JH: How is Wayne Chambers coming along?
BV: "He looks good. He needs to continue to improve with consistency, but he has looked good. He is getting back into his element, so to speak."
JH: What are your thoughts on UCLA?
BV: "They have really, really good personnel. They have a good offensive line, good running backs and a tight end that was highly regarded as the number one guy out of high school. They have very fast, athletic receivers, and certainly the quarterback comes with a great pedigree as well. They will try to establish the run game a lot like Colorado with a two-back run game. They will run a lot of zone schemes and work to get angles on you and try to create some seems on you. So, we will need to be really sound in our run defense with guys being in the right gaps. They do a good job with their play-action on first and ten and second and long, and they try to keep you off balance in that way. It is all able to work off of each other when they establish some consistency in the run game. So again, we will have to at our best in that regard and recognize the play-action passes."
JH: How has it helped the younger linebackers that they've followed in the footsteps of Torrance Marshall, Rocky Calmus, Lance Mitchell and Teddy Lehman?
BV: "That has been really good. Some of those guys are getting thrown in there a little quicker than we would like, but the ones that have been around have an understanding of the expectations of our linebackers. They know how to prepare themselves and those guys have helped the young guys along the way understanding what we are doing and the fundamentals of the position. It has definitely been a benefit."
Venables talks about replacing Mitchell
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