Venables says A&M's McNeal poses major threat

Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables (pictured above) talks about Saturday's mathcup against Reggie McNeal and Texas A&M. Oklahoma's defense is currently No. 2 nationally stopping the run.

The Oklahoma Sooners are two touchdown favorites to extend their win streak to four games against Texas A&M on Saturday in Norman.

However, the Sooner coaches know that Texas A&M has given them a number of problems in the past and on the defensive side of the ball and are manning up for what they expect to be a major challenge on Saturday.

Oklahoma is No. 2 against the run and 15th overall on the defensive side of the ball, as Brent Venables and the Sooner defensive staff have put together one of the top defenses in college football.

Earlier this week, Coach V stopped his preparation for Texas A&M long enough to talk to for the Two Minute drill.

JH: What were you able to get accomplished during the off-week?

BV: "We were able to zero in on our last three opponents and work on fundamentals and technique. One of the main things was that we tried to get our guys healthy."

JH: Defensively, OU is moving down the stat charts and you seem to be improving every week and against the run?

BV: "There are a lot of good things that we have been able to improve upon, but there are a number of other things that we have got to make improvement on here down the stretch if we want to have a chance to win these three. You can probably figure out what those things are yourself, but we need to be more consistent most importantly and learn not to give up big plays."

JH: Once again you are great against the run, which is goal No. 1 each year isn't it?

BV: "We have been fortunate to have been pretty successful in that regard. It is a whole other monster and animal this week. You can have things bottled up and a quarterback like Reggie McNeal can really break a defense down regardless how you are defending the run. Hopefully, you have everything covered. He poses a lot of different threats with his ability to improvise and run around and buy time with his legs. In fact, he can beat you from behind, because he is able to hold onto the ball so long that his receivers are able to get behind you. There is a lot more complexity to an offense when they have a player like Reggie McNeal."

JH: It seems like you have been playing Reggie McNeal forever?

BV: "He has had a lot of success against us too. He obviously has our attention and we are concerned about his ability in trying to defend him."

JH: Everybody talks about his speed and running ability, but he actually throws the ball really well doesn't he?

BV: "He can throw it on a rope 70 yards off his back foot. He is a special player, and somebody who has beat us with both his arm and his legs. As a true freshman, he had a fabulous game against us and for two-and-a half to three quarters. And he played great football against us last year. We all know that we have our hands full."

JH: What problems do they present with the rest of their offense?

BV: "They have a lot of offense. They are very multiple in what they do and how they attack you, formation you and personnel you. They neutralize you with the option running game and they have good skill. Despite losing some key players to injury, they have quality back-ups at some skill positions. They still have guys like DeQwan Mobley, Jason Carter, Courtney Lewis and Martellus Bennett, who was the No. 1 tight end recruit in the country last year.

"They also have a strong offensive line, and again they have an offense that has produced. The struggles they have had this year have not been on the offensive side of the ball. They are scoring 32 points per game and they have tremendous balance in their offense. Again, it is all spearheaded by Reggie McNeal. He is averaging close to 300 yards total offense a game by himself. That is about what our team is averaging."

JH: Are you focusing now on closing out the season well during this final stretch of three games?

BV: "Yeah, but we obviously focus on our next opponent. We felt with the off-week that gave us a stretch run to look to. Obviously, each game matters to us a great deal and puts us in a position to reach our remaining goals."

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories