Catching up with Brent Venables

OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables talks about Rufus Alexander's success and the progress of freshmen linebackers Curtis Lofton, Lamont Robinson and Ryan Reynolds.

The Sooner coaching staff is back on the road recruiting before they resume practice this Thursday for the Holiday Bowl and the Oregon Ducks.

It was good to see OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables back at work, and he stopped long enough to chat with for the Two Minute Drill.

JH: Rufus Alexander was recently named to the All-Big 12 first team. What are your thoughts on how much he has improved and the recognition that he is receiving?

BV: "The biggest thing that we have seen in Rufus this year has been his consistency. He has been playing at a very high level, making big plays and getting people lined up. He has been playing with great technique and his understanding in and out of the game right now is second to none.

"Rufus is all over that field making plays, because he is staying focused, being consistent and he now has a complete understanding of our defense. That really shows, and I have been really happy with his leadership ability. He has brought a great deal to our defense in terms of helping the younger guys whether it is guys at linebacker or guys up front or in the back end. Rufus has kind of been the glue to all of it on game day."

JH: Every year you have had great linebacker and many have been recognized as the best in the country. Is Rufus now playing up in the category with the Rocky Calmus and Teddy Lehman's of the world? Is he the next great one that you are going to be talking about years from now?

BV: "I think he has earned that designation. At the beginning of the year, and even in the middle, I was always hesitant to sing praise, but I think he has earned that right. The last year and a half he has played, and in particular this year, with the consistency of playing at such a very high level, an All-American type of level. That is the standard that we have here at OU and he has met that standard and then some. The recognition that he has received thus far is well deserved."

JH: This is the time of year that you are working your young players. Talk about the group of freshmen linebackers that you are getting a good look at?

BV: "I am trying to get them all the reps that I can. I want to put them in tough situations and hold them accountable for all the little things, so I can critique and fine-tune a lot of the little things in their game right now. I am on them harder than anybody right now and it has been an uncomfortable couple of days for them. I can stop and really teach and coach them up right now, while during the season I just fire them and put the one's back in at practice sometimes.

"Curtis (Lofton) and Ryan (Reynolds) have done a great job on the varsity this year in back-up roles and on special teams. The experience that they received will be invaluable for them next season. Both have great futures here at OU and both are extremely talented.

"I think the same thing of Lamont (Robinson), who is redshirting this year. However, Lamont is a quick learner and hard worker. He has talent as well and I look forward to seeing what he can do for us next year."

JH: You are working young players in at all positions aren't you?

BV: "Yes, on the whole defense because right now is when you want to emphasize teaching and learning with the young players. We probably go 2-to-1 with the young guys over the older guys right now."

JH: Brent, we are praying for you due what you have been going through lately with your family. Only you know how interested you were in the Kansas State job, but if it means anything to you there are a number of OU fans who are very happy that you are still the defensive coordinator at OU.

BV: "I appreciate that. That is flattering. That situation and the way it happened is the best for everybody involved. I am excited about coaching my linebackers, getting after recruiting and finishing up strong with a strong recruiting class. I am totally committed on getting our guys ready for a bowl game and I am looking forward to next year."

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