Venables says Onyenegecha worth the wait

Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables talks about his new job and the addition of junior college cornerback Chijioke Onyenegecha.

NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma Co-Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables will be the main man behind the Sooner defense in 2004. He will coordinate the defense with former Nebraska Defensive Coordinator Bo Pelini at this side, along with the continued help of high powered assistants Bobby Jack Wright and Jackie Shipp.

Venables also takes over as Assistant Head Coach, which means he will take over for Mike Stoops, as Bob Stoops' right hand man. Venables continues to be one of the top recruiting assistants in the country, landing Rhett Bomar of Grand Prairie, Texas, the nation's top ranked quarterback, and Marcus Walker of Waco, Texas, the top cornerback in Texas and the fourth-rated cornerback in the country.

Every year there are many tremendous recruiting stories that Venables is involved in and one of the most unusual was that of All-American Junior College cornerback Chijioke Onyenegecha. Coach Venables recently found time to sit down with for the Two Minute Drill.

JH: Brent, congratulations on your promotion to the main position within the OU defense and to Assistant Head Coach to Head Coach Bob Stoops. That is quite an honor for you.

BV: "It is, and I am certainly grateful for the promotion. We have a number of coaches there at Oklahoma that could have that title, but I appreciate Bob for his loyalty for giving me the opportunity to be here at Oklahoma. It is a great situation to be in here in Norman, where we have a chance to win and we can have a great quality of life as well. It is just the best of both worlds."

JH: With your promotion you are in a position to directly help Bob. If he is not available for something, or if he has some emergency that he must attend to, you will be in charge in the program. So when you look at it that way this is a huge promotion for you isn't it?

BV: I have been very fortunate to be around a lot of great coaches who have helped me prepare for this position. I don't perceive anything happening to Bob, but in a worst case scenario if it ever did I feel that I am more than qualified to fill in and serve as long as needed."

JH: What do you think about Bo Pelini joining your staff?

BV: "I am just ecstatic that we were able to get him — a man of his quality, especially when the NFL was trying to lure him back to their league. Obviously, his credentials and pedigree speak for themselves. He has tremendous experience and he has been around a lot of quality head coaches. He is very similar in how he approaches the game, especially his coaching style in particular is very similar. He grew up with a great passion for the game and is a very caring, hard-working coach who grew up knowing what he wanted to do. He has been a success everywhere he has been. So, at this point and time you can not say enough great things about the ability to bring him into the Oklahoma family. I am really looking forward to working with him."

JH: Brent, I want to pat you on the back for the recruiting of cornerback Chijioke Onyenegecha. You hung in there with him even when it looked like you weren't going to sign him or that he wouldn't get eligible, and now he is finally here at OU. You have to be relieved that he is finally at OU?

BV: "Well, I have to thank Bill Snyder for that attribute. He taught me at a young age to never give up. Don't take no for an answer and just be relentless. You have to pursue the player from start to finish and you have to be able to handle adversity or circumstances that come up in the recruiting. When you have an opportunity to get a player the caliber of Chijioke — with his style and ability you have to devote the time to make it happen, it is definitely going to be worth the wait. He is a great athlete and he did what it took to get his academic situation taken care of so that he could get here. And even if he didn't play football, that experience would make him a better young man. Just like Pasha (Jackson) and Lance (Mitchell) before him out of San Francisco Community College, he is a great young man and a super athlete that I look forward to coaching at OU."

JH: What kind of talent is he?

BV: "He obviously has great size and speed and he has experienced great success as a cover corner at SFCC. The remaining question with Chijioke is whether he can get back to full speed before the start of next season. He went through a very delicate hamstring surgery after he tore his hamstring last spring during a track meet. He has been going through an extensive rehab ever since, and now that he is here at Oklahoma we hope that we can accelerate his progress.

"We are working on both strengthening and stretching the muscle to get the balance back into his quads and hamstrings so that we can get it to the point where we can test it. We are going to get him going at full speed, but that will take a while. However, the main thing is that we want him totally healthy and ready to go by next fall."

JH: Will this spring be a mental learning process for Chijioke? Will he participate in many physical drills?

BV: "Oh yeah, that is for certain. The main thing right now for Chijioke is that we finally have him here where he can be apart of our team and get him involved with our university academic program. We needed to get him going in the transition from a great junior college career to what we have here at Oklahoma in Division 1 football. For any player it is important that they get comfortable within their environment as soon as possible, and then their talent can take over. Chijioke understands the game and he will have to learn our defensive language, but I think he will do that real quickly. If we can have a rapid rehab over the next few weeks, we should be able to get him involved in some drills during the spring and then really get him ready to go at 100 percent in the fall.

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