Venables on USC

Sooner Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables talks about his Sooners'matchup defenses with Southern Cal's offense. Venables Oklahoma defense haven't given up a touchdown in the last three games, and have only given up six poitns during that stretch. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

The Sooners are taking a little time off so everybody can go and enjoy Christmas, but you know the coaches will have their computers with them wherever they go so that they can continue their preparation for USC. That is the price you pay when you are playing for the National Championship.

A lot has been made on how good USC Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow is and how successful he has been in his career. It is because of his success that I am looking forward to his match-up with the Sooner defensive staff and Co-Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables.

Venables has been outstanding as a staff leader and play-caller, and the Sooner defensive staff once again proved that they are the best in the business. Recently, I had a chance to sit down with Coach Venables to talk about his early preparations and USC.

JH: How much of your USC game plan is already in the players' heads?

BV: "A great deal of it, or most of it is already been laid out there. We treated last week just like game week, so we had our typical game plan practices early in the week. When we get to Miami we will add more to it, but the basic plan is already in."

JH: What stands out about USC more than anything?

BV: "It is their great overall team speed and great talent at the skill positions. Start at quarterback, where they are very talented with a Heisman Trophy winner. Matt (Leinart) is 24-1 as a starter, so he obviously doesn't make many mistakes. Their receivers, whether you are talking about (Dwayne) Jarrett or Steve Smith, are very talente. And they have a bunch of tight ends that can catch the ball to.

"They do a bunch with their running backs in the passing game. Their running backs are a very talented group, who are very explosive and very strong runners. They run great schemes on offense, and all of their schemes marry up. They know what they are doing on offense and it is a very good system.

"We are looking forward to the match-up. It is going to be a great challenge for us, but there is a lot of excitement in our camp. There are a lot of great match-ups across the board, whether it is up front or in the back end with the receives and defensive backs. Our backers are going to have a great challenge playing a good two-back run team."

JH: Have you talked to Coach Mike (Stoops) much at all?

BV: "We have visited a little bit, and he obviously has some familiarity with them. We have looked at a variety of teams from the Pac-10 that does things similar to what we do. However, he will be able to give us some insight."

JH: Is USC really that similar to what you face in practice from your own offense?

BV: "There are some similarities, but there are also some differences. I think they probably challenge you vertically a little more than our offense. Their run game is a little bit simpler, but again it is stopping the guys that are carrying the load that is making it more difficult. There are a lot of similarities in that they try to formation you and personnel you a little bit. They do a good job utilizing all their weapons."

JH: Reggie Bush was no secret to you even before you looked at film was he?

BV: "He is a freak. He is special and he has unbelievable speed and explosion. What you see from him is pretty unique."

JH: Early in camp you took time to take a long look at some of your young players as well. What was your impression of some of those guys?

BV: "It has been good, but if you think about most of those guys have been in our two-deep as well. Most of those guys are sitting in our No. 2 spot because we don't have a great deal of depth right now. So, throughout the year we have been able to get a good look at guys like Jason Carter and Tony Cade. Brett Bowers, as well, has been getting a lot of reps during this time, and that has been very beneficial for him. We have used all of our corners so there are not a whole lot of new looks back there.

"Inside, Cory Bennett and Steven Coleman are getting better. Then at defensive end, it has been vary beneficial for a guy like Larry (Birdine) to get a lot of good hard reps. He has played a lot for us, but he is still developing his game. Alonzo (Dotson) and (John) Williams are doing well. It is great to see Lewis Baker back playing linebacker some. With Wayne Chambers losing his career to injurym it has been very beneficial for Zach Latimer to focus and get a lot of good quality reps."

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