The pads are on and that means the Sooner defense gets to turn it loose just a little bit more in training camp. OU has now gone through three days in full pads, and OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables slowed down just enough on Tuesday to talk to OUInsider.com for the Two Minute Drill.
JH: What have you seen from your defense since you've been in full pads the last couple of days?
BV: "I have seen great energy, good technique, fundamentals and good positioning on the ball. I have seen a lot of guys flying around. What you like to see is the competition and the depth that comes along with that. We have guys trying like heck to get onto the floor. It has been a really good start to our camp. I am happy with where we have progressed and how the competition is going across the board."
JH: Aren't you talking a lot more this camp about how pleased you are with how the defense is lining and playing?
BV: "It is just repetitions in the relatively young defense. That is particularly true in the back end, at some spots at linebacker and inside with the defensive tackles. You are going to get that through repetitions. Again, guys are progressing and guys are having the right attitude. They are focused and it is important to them. They are not just trying to get through practice. They are showing a lot of maturity and they have not had a bad day yet. Knock on wood."
JH: What is your situation at the SAM linebacker (strongside) as far as depth goes?
BV: "Demarrio (Pleasant) is the starter and Lewis (Baker) can play over there. However, right now Brandon Crow is the back-up.
JH: Brandon has been very impressive in camp hasn't he?
BV: "Yeah. And then Nic Harris is also playing the nickel. He is playing a little bit of SAM too."
JH: Is playing Harris in the nickel benefit the rest of your secondary because Reggie Smith can stay full-time at field corner?
BV: "It is all about having your five best DBs, whoever they are, on the field. That is as long as they can do the things you want them to do. In the nickel, you want that position to be able to cover, have some man skills, blitz skills and some range. Nic provides that and Reggie can do that too. That is what we are still trying to work through right now — finding out who are top six or seven DBs are, what their strengths are and what they can and can't do. We feel we are getting real close on figuring that out right now. And then we always have plan ‘B' ready from a depth standpoint if the worst case scenario happens. We always know what our next option is."
JH: How do you feel Marcus Walker has played thus far?
BV: "Excellent. He has been really good. Marcus is playing better than at any time that he has been here. He has been very aggressive and physical, he has been playing with great technique, understanding and position. As much as anything now, more than he has done in the past, is that he is making plays on the ball. He has just been sure of himself. When he was injured, he listened in the meetings and now he is not getting overwhelmed at practice. I think the time he was out was a very good learning experience for Marcus and he has brought that out here in fall camp thus far."
JH: Do you take your two best corners and then decide who should play the boundary corner and the field corner?
BV: "Each player has to have the ability to execute what you need them to execute in the defense. If it is the two best corners then so be it, but the best at what? We just don't run a bunch of man-to-man, so they have to be multiple in their ability playing both zone and man. They have to have instincts, physicalness and things of that nature."
JH: Is Walker pushing D.J. Wolfe at the boundary corner?
BV: "Yes, he is battling to get on the field. I think what he is going to give us right now, if he continues to play like his has, is some flexibility and some options. Nothing is solidified there either so hopefully we have great competition until the end of camp."
JH: Has Walker's injuries just been bad luck the last couple of years?
BV: "Oh, sure. Certainly. No doubt he has had some bad luck, but he has worked diligently getting himself back healthy again and you never know. You never say never. I will knock on wood for Marcus's sake, but yeah he has had dumb luck."
JH: How has Gerald McCoy, DeMarcus Granger and some of the young guys looked up front?
BV: "They have looked good. DeMarcus is working ahead of Gerald, but of course they are playing different positions inside. When Gerald has gotten in there he has done some good things and he has done some young things. The same thing with DeMarcus. Again, we have a lot of numbers there. Jackie (Shipp) is giving everybody an opportunity to kind of earn their way and weed themselves out as we continue to progress to team situations. Then we'll start to get guys more reps, and some guys won't get as many reps. We are just keeping track of them and they are doing a nice job. There is still a lot of thinking in particular for Gerald, but he is coming along really well."
JH: Do you feel like the rotation that you have up front is a top quality rotation?
BV: "We will definitely have players capable of playing winning football. Do we have any special guys? That remains to be seen. We won't know that yet until they go out and play and see them sack a guy or make a tackle for loss. We are not doing those things right now so we will see. You want to reserve judgment in that regard, but we know we will have solid play inside. That is for sure."
JH: How is John Williams doing in his comeback from ACL surgery?
BV: "Really good. He hasn't had any swelling or anything, I don't think. He hasn't had any lingering effects. He has done really well. He will get on the field."
Two Minute Drill: Brent Venables
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