Venables talks defense, UAB

Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables talks about the state of the defense and what the Sooners might see from UAB's offensive attack this Saturday. Sophomore Nic Harris (pictured) is making a late run at the starting strongside linebacker spot.

Below are excerpts from defensive coordinator Brent Venables' interview with the media after practice on Monday.

On if he's concerned that Reggie Smith is also getting getting reps at receiver and corner

Venables: We want to make sure that it doesn't inhibit his ability to play at corner. But I think Reggie has shown all the intangibles that you look for in a guy that can handle it to some extent.

On if the fact that they have other good corners to step in for Smith should he need a break after playing receiver eases his mind

Venables: Yeah, to a point. But we're not planning on moving Reggie and let's move somebody else in. Reggie's still going to play corner unless he gets to a point where he can't play for some reason and do it all. But if something's gonna give, corner's not a position that is gonna give.

On having the cornerback depth to run different coverages and schemes in the secondary

Venables: Marcus (Walker) and Lendy (Holmes) have definitely made a great deal of improvement. Their transition, their adjustment has helped us a great deal knowing that, one, you do have some depth nd, two, to be able to match-up with people and have some flexibility in that regard.

On if he's decided on the starting linebackers. Or are they still competing

Venables: Yep, still competing. It might be a gametime deal so nobody can scoop anybody (smiles).

On if the position that hasn't been decided is the SAM (strongside) linebacker spot between DeMarrio Pleasant or Curtis Lofton

Venables: Or Nic (Harris).

On if Harris has been officially moved to linebacker

Venables: Oh, don't say that to him (laughs). We call him a nickelbacker. You just say nickel and he's got a smile on his face. If he's out there in space he thinks he's a DB.

On what Harris has done to have an impressive fall

Venables: His position on the ball, his understanding of the defense, zone coverages, man coverages, blitzes. He's got good range, good ball skills back there. Again, he's really shown, for a guy who hasn't been at that position very long at all, he's shown a great deal of awareness out there.

All those variables are things that give you a chance to have a guy you can count on there, or a guy that is problematic and can be a big-time problem because he's really in charge of manning two-thirds of the field. Again, he's done a really nice job and I expect him to continue to improve.

Lendy Holmes is also playing some nickel as well. It gives us another guy that has some of his own physical traits that are maybe a little bit different than Nic's. So what we've been able to do is experiment and see what those strengths are, what the weakness might be to give us options as we go down the road here.

On if he thinks Harris could grow to be too big to play safety

Venables: I think some of his physical testing is indicative of that. He's 228 pounds and the forces of nature...You guys know how it is? As you get older or bigger, right? Now I wouldn't know anything about that. No, I'm just teasing (smiles).

On the rotation at defensive tackle

Venables: It's the same guys. You'd like for some guys to really jump up heads and shoulders above the next guy and have one or two guys that have done that, and we really haven't done it. Whether or not we have anybody at Dusty's (Dvoracek) capability or have somebody that can be disruptive like that remains to be seen.

I know Jackie feels good about having four or five guys that will play and will be fresh throughout a game. But you're still looking for playmaking. You're looking for guys that are disruptive and you're looking for guys that can be consistent.

That's a guy that may not show up on the stat sheet, but he can stay on his feet, stay in his gap, push a pocket, draw two blocks. That's what we're still trying to work to get out of that position.

And again, we think we've got some guys that are quality or capable of doing it. But until we see it out there on the field, we'll reserve judgement.

On if Carl Pendleton and Steven Coleman will be the starters at defensive tackle

Venables: I don't know yet. Cory Bennett and DeMarcus (Granger) are also a strong tandem. We've worked with a number of different combinations throughout fall camp, so Jackie's still working with those guys to determine that.

On not knowing what they have with a player, like DeMarcus Granger, until they see him on the field

Venables: Yeah, game experience is much different. And it's the other guys, too. We expect those other guys that are coming back, we need to be a lot better than what we've been.

Some guys, in the past, have been good. Dusty was really, really, really good. And, obviously, experience is a big part of that too. Even Lynn McGruder was really good. Our man from NEO — Remi Ayodele — really transitioned well from junior college. And we need that kind of play for us to continue to be solid, just in run defense alone.

On UAB and what Watson Brown brings to the table offensively

Venables: Very well-balanced. I think he'll play to their strengths. His M.O. has always been to do that — change-up personnel-wise and show you multiple formations and plays out of the same personnel too to try and keep you off balance.

They always have an element of option, maybe this year moreso than the last couple. We're preparing for that. He's got a strong option background. What the option does is it minimizes some of your aggressiveness. It shortens the game. It's a ball-control (offense). You limit your opportunities for lost yardage plays from a defensive standpoint — sacks fumbles, interceptions.

With the limited experience, I would expect that type of philosophy to some degree. Where it's not as much spread out, where it's a controlled passing game and it's set up by working you in a variety of ways in the run game and not giving you a steady dose of just one thing.

First, you need to be disciplined and to a point slow your aggressiveness down, because that's what a good running team can do to you. And certainly, an option team welcomes pressure, blitzes, twists. They attack your athletic ability.

That's why the teams like the Air Forces of the world have always been known as a giant killer because on any given day, if you're not disciplined and play with fundamentals and technique, they can just wear you out and make it a long, long day.


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