NORMAN, Okla. — Co-Defensive Coordinator and linebacker Coach Brent Venables is one of the young stars in collegiate coaching. He is destined to be a head coach in the very near future, but for the moment all of us that root for or cover OU get to enjoy him in action on the Sooner sideline. Coach Venables recently sat down with OUInsider.com to talk about the upcoming OU/Texas battle in the latest installment of our two minute drill.
JH: How fun is this game to coach in?
BV: "The game is fun and exciting, but it is because of what is at stake in the game. The implications of a southern division championship and the chance to stay in the driver's seat is the biggest motivating factor. The atmosphere to me is something that you have to guard against so not to get too caught up in it, or to many of the outside distractions that come with the game. The players themselves need to focus on assignments and assignment responsibilities and not worry about what is going on around the game. They need to stay focused during the course of the ball game, because they can easily get distracted."
JH: You will face some running quarterbacks on Saturday in the Cotton Bowl, but you know that going in. Did you realize what Brad Smith at Missouri brought to the table before you played Missouri last year?
BV: "I think Brad Smith is a great talent and at times our position on the football wasn't great. We had chances to make plays on him in a phone booth and we missed tackles. Some of that is a credit to him, and some of that was the fact that we weren't as focused or played with the urgency that we needed to. He threw some great balls into tight coverage and kept the chains moving. Any time a quarterback has the ability to throw and run equally, it makes it difficult to defend."
JH: Knowing that one of Vincent Young's biggest weapons is to tuck the ball and run, what is the key aspect in stopping him?
BV: "I guess we will put the whole team in the box and hope they don't throw the ball down the field (laughs). We will try to be balanced and we don't want to give him anything cheap over the top, because they have the ability to throw the ball extremely well downfield. However, we need to always have an awareness that they can pull it down and run it in the quarterback run game. At the same time that is where the chess match is. When is it that we are going to commit enough men in the box, because when you do so you leave yourself in trouble in the back-end in more of a man type concept. They have so many weapons in their aerial assault that it makes it more difficult to make those type of decision."
JH: Are Chance Mock and Vincent Young so different that they cause you to put together two different gameplans?
BV: "Not particularly. They went into this year with the idea that they were going to have a more mobile offense. They were going to have an offense that moved the pocket, was going to sprint, roll out, boot and run a little bit of option. Well, they have done all of those things with both of those quarterbacks, with still the emphasis on the two-back running game. They have the ability to spread you out and go vertical. They have done both of those things on a regular basis.
"Vincent is a little bit better runner, but Chance is a very good runner. Chance is a lot like Jason was prior to his injury. Chance is a little more advanced in his progression in throwing the football, but Vince has tremendous, tremendous ability in the passing game. He has a live arm and the ability again to get out on the perimeter to improvise and get you over the top and make those deep throws."
JH: What do you think of the Texas wide receiver corp?
BV: "They have lived up to their billing up to this point. B.J (Johnson), Sloan (Thomas), Tony (Jeffrey) out of Roy (Williams) are outstanding. You don't hear much about their tight ends, but Bo Scaife and David Thomas are great weapons for them, and Cedric Benson played his best game this season in the win over Kansas State and their outstanding defense. Their best players right now are playing really well for them and it is going be a great challenge to stop all of those weapons."
JH: What do you do about your challenge to get another player ready to replace Pasha Jackson at strongside linebacker?
BV: "Donte Nicholson has moved into a role that is very similar to what we ask out of our 'sam' backer and he has played that for the last three or four weeks. We are still working with a few different linebackers — Russell Dennison, Zac Latimer and Rufus Alexander — into that role. We will find out that it will probably be a collection of all three of those guys. That is more of a short-yardage and goal-line situation when you have somebody that can be an anchor over the tight end."
JH: Have you been pretty pleased with your defense through the first five games?
BV: "I have been pleased, but we are certainly not sitting there patting ourselves on the back. We are far from playing our best game. Last week in our win over Iowa State our defensive line dominated, but our linebackers and part of our secondary did not play particularly well. Some of our better players did not play a great game and we haven't had all of them playing a great game on the same date yet. That is just what we need to do and that is to get more consistent in our play. We had a dominant defensive line and it took the pressure off of our back-end, and it makes things look a lot simpler. However, we need to continue to improve and the guys that are replacing our injured players need to improve if we want to reach our goals."
Venables says UT has plenty of weapons
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