Going into the 100th battle with the University of Texas many believe the Sooner defense is going up against one of the best offenses in Longhorn history.
I certainly think this year's Longhorn offense is good, but I don't think is the best ever. Vince Young might be the best quarterback in Texas history and he is certainly one of the best players in college football, so no matter how you look at it the Longhorns have a very good offense.
However, as OU Head Coach Bob Stoops says, "When has Texas not had a good offense?" OU has faced good Texas offenses the past few years and the OU defense has, for the most part, stopped them.
OU Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables is the man in charge of stopping UT's potent offensive attack, and he spoke with the media earlier this week on the challenge that is ahead for the Sooner defense.
JH: Talk about the challenge that the Texas offense presents any defense they face?
BV: They are big, physical, experienced and explosive at the point of attack. At the skill position, Vince Young is probably the best quarterback in the country, their offensive line is probably the best in the country and they have great young freshmen. They have great playmaking ability at the skill positions. They are going to be tough to defend because they can run it and throw it."
JH: Did you notice anything in their victory over Ohio State that impressed you? And do you feel the fact that they have already played in a big game will help them in this game?
BV: "I think it is important to prepare mentally for every game. You need to prepare hard mentally and physically to play in any game. That is especially true in this day and age. I was impressed with their win. It is a tough place to play and they played extremely well. They beat a good football team on the road in a hostile environment ,and that says a lot about their mental and physical capacity."
BRIAN DAVIS (DMN): Does it make any difference this year it seems that all eyes are on them or that they are getting more attention before the game than OU?
BV: "I don't care. All of our eyes are right out here on our practice field every day. I don't care whose eyes are where. To be honest, Brian, we don't pay attention to that stuff. We have our own problems. Trust me."
BRIAN DAVIS (DMN): That being said, how did the new combination in the secondary play against Kansas State?
BV: "It was a good combination. And in all likelihood, we will go with that same combination this week."
JH: How did your freshmen safeties play?
BV: "They played good. They weren't without mistakes, but they played well. They played better than they had previously. They made improvement as they had better awareness, better positioning, better assuredness. And they played with more confidence out there."
JH: Are you surprised that you had to turn to them as early as you did during this season?
BV: "I don't know, because nothing surprises you in college football right now. Just in football in general, anything can happen. We knew that they would be talented enough to contribute from day one. I think they came in and proved that to us early on."
JH: You are coming off an outstanding game against Kansas State, and that performance seems to have rejuvenated your guys somewhat. Do you see that or agree with that?
BV: "I think any time that you are not having success, then you work really hard. And then if you do have success, I think it lends credibility to working hard and working harder. That obviously excites you and makes hard work easier to take in and accept."
JH: Eric Bassey seems like he is a new player?
BV: "Yeah, I know. And you appreciate that about Eric. I also believe that they have been excited and easy to coach all along, but sometimes you have success and sometimes you don't. And sometimes it is just one guy here or there. It is not a reflection of them being dogs or them not having the ability to work or not having worked or things of that nature. Collectively, you win and you lose. You have success and you don't have success as a team. Again, it is easy to go back out on the field and compete when things are going well. That is what you want to see them do, and for a little while they had to take a hold of that game and they responded the right way. They need to respond that way all the time."
JH: You seem to defense Texas pretty good every year no matter who they have on offense. What has been the key to your success against them?
BV: "I think every guy on our defense has to play well. That is what it comes down to. They are going to make plays. They have made plays on us in the past, but I think turnovers are the key to the game. In 2003, they were moving the ball pretty well on us and we had a game-changing turnover that happened on our goal line as they were reaching across. It is those game-changing type plays that you either make or don't make.
"Last year, again, when they had some sustained drives we were fortunate to come up with a few turnovers in a few critical situations that gave us back the ball and the momentum. It is usually a great game and it comes down to a play here and a play there. And it either goes in your favor or it doesn't. So, collectively, I think our players need to play sound, play fundamentally, play physically and create turnovers and not allow big plays."
JH: Is there any particular part of your defense that Vince stretches more than others?
BV: "He does your whole defense. Again, we had one of our more athletic defenses in 2003 and he made us look like a bunch of guys that aren't athletes. He made our fast guys look slow, and he made our good athletes look like bad athletes. He does that to everybody.
"Obviously, the ends are the players that he lines up the closest to, so he challenges you in space whether you are a backer, a safety coming up in run support or you are a defensive end squeezing from outside in or outside out."
JH: Do you have to defense him differently than you would most run/pass quarterbacks? Can your defense can't pin their ears back and go after him?
BV: "The zone read is just an inverted option, so we have to play like we do against a triple option team. Everybody has to slow down a little bit more and play a little more under control. Playing technique is more important now more than ever. You can be fast and athletic, but if you are out of position you are no good."
BRIAN DAVIS (DMN): Do you believe in spying or do you feel that compromises your defense?
BV: (Chuckling) "Whose defense uses that spy technique, because I would love to watch it. I mean it, because I don't see how you do it. I guess we spy in a sense of what we do. In the run game, you can't have a spy guy just run wherever he goes because somebody is going to block him. But if it is just an athletic scramble that is different.
"In the NFL, nobody runs the speed option because there is too much speed and athletes across the board. Maybe in coverage or man-to-man in coverage behind you, then you have a linebacker that is just going to mirror him. Maybe in a situation like that, yeah. But as far as a spy for the whole game schematically it doesn't work.
"Maybe in pass drops an athletic guy that you are mirroring, like Michael Vick, Donavan McNabb, then there is something you can do coverage wise sometimes to help yourself that way. Again, you are in great coverage and he buys time with his legs and things break down in the secondary and he picks up a first down. If you use a spy there or the guys who are accountable for him in containment, then yes."
JH: Are you using Hayes McEachern as Vincent Young on the scout team (chuckles from the media).
BV: "Well, who should we use? Paul Thompson? He is playing on the varsity. All the wide receivers are playing on the varsity that have any kind of quarterback ability. All those freshmen are playing. They are playing receiver, they are athletes. Manuel Johnson would be our best option, because he is a former quarterback. But he is playing. We have D-linemen playing scout offensive line. That is how desolate it is right now.
"At some positions it is like this every year, but this year our younger guys who would normally be your scout guys are playing. Now, this is not like poor ole Oklahoma, because everybody goes through this in one way or another. You just don't hear about it. Our situation is not as good as it would ideally be.
"In a perfect world, you would like to simulate everything like it is going to happen on the field. That includes run, pass, athletes and the whole deal. Sometimes it is a better look based on your personnel, sometimes it isn't. When Mark Bradley was Senecca Wallace, that was great. It really helped us get ready for that game. Rhett Bomar last year was great for us getting ready to play Vince."
Venables on the Texas offense
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