The task for Oklahoma's defense in training camp isn't an easy one this fall. The Sooner defense is trying to find a new secondary, two new starters at defensive end, and a middle linebacker. However, playing good defense is a way of life under Bob Stoops and you can bet the Sooners will be a good defensive team again in 2005.
OU Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables is the man in charge of the Sooner defense, and after six practices he gives OUInsider.com his early thoughts on his unit.
JH: What are your thoughts on how your defense is progressing thus far through camp?
BV: "Really good. I am really excited about the progress of guys in the secondary. Some of the young guys, like D.J. Wolfe and Reggie Smith, have really jumped out and caught our attention. Nic Harris has as well. Eric Bassey has been out, but prior to that he was doing well. Chijioke (Onyenegecha) has been playing well. Lewis Baker has really made some strides at strong safety from the spring, and Darrien Williams has been pretty good. But he needs to be more consistent.
"Then up front, we have some good depth. We have found out that we have some good defensive ends, but we are still trying to find out who is going to be our most consistent playmakers at that spot. Obviously, creating a good pass rush and collapsing the pocket is going to make us a lot better in the back-end in coverage.
"I like all the linebackers; all four of them. Plus, Curtis Lofton and Ryan Reynolds really jump out at you. Those two freshmen are guys that are pretty progressed as far as the mental aspect, as well as the physical aspect of the game.
"Overall, the attitude has been great and it is a group that plays with a great deal of energy. They are playing with a lot of confidence right now. We are just trying to figure out who are going to be the starters and who are going to be the second team guys."
JH: So what you're saying is you still have a lot of competition left?
BV: "We sure do across the board. Our linebackers are close to being set, but you are still trying to find out who is ready and who isn't. Otherwise, across the board guys are fighting and competing every day. But it is a lot of fun to come to practice in that kind of environment."
JH: What have your three freshmen at linebacker shown you thus far?
BV: "Great instincts with both Curtis and Ryan, and both are very active and very good tacklers. They have very good range in coverage, but they make young mistakes right now. But they are really far along as far as the X's and the O's compared to other guys in the past.
"Lamont (Robinson) is a little bit further behind them, only because he has been working behind Demarrio (Pleasant). DeMarrio has switched between the 'WILL' and the 'SAM', so there is not as much opportunity for Lamont as his position (SAM) as there is with the other two guys.
"I have been excited about the mental maturity that they have, as well as their physical maturity. Curtis is 238 pounds and Ryan is 235 pounds, and both can run and carry their weight well."
JH: What were your thoughts on the scrimmage Monday night?
BV: "I thought it was very good. There were a couple of blown assignments, a couple of missed tackles, but that is going to happen early. I really like the play at a couple of positions. D.J. Wolfe jumped out and made some plays. Lewis Baker really made some good plays and our defensive line played well. All the defensive ends played well.
"The backers were a little bit hit-and-miss. Rufus played awfully well and Zach missed a seam route down the middle for a 55-yarder. Clint missed a tackle and one time came underneath when he shouldn't have.
"Overall, guys were flying around and there were fewer mistakes than what you would expect at this time, and they really played with a good attitude. You saw a lot of good hitting."
Two Minute Drill with Brent Venables
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