Venables says consistency the key on defense

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables talks defense and about Saturday's matchup against Iowa State's offense.

Below are excerpts from Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables' meeting with the media earlier this week.

On the second half against Texas

Venables: They changed up a couple of schemes and it took us a while to get an adjustment made.

There was a couple plays that it comes down to that sometimes they make a good play. It's not us not being good — sometimes it's them being a little bit better and that happens when you play good people.

On if Keenan Clayton is making any progress in practice toward earning back his starting safety spot

Venables: He's making improvement. He's doing a lot of good things.

On if Clatyon is struggling with technique or learning the defense

Venables: It's hard to gauge, but again it's just being consistent every day and being better than the guy that's in front of you.

On how Reggie Smith has performed since his move back to safety

Venables: He's been solid. There hasn't been any problem areas since he's been there. And sometimes people think all the sudden he's not making any plays, but are people making plays on him like at that position was being made the first few games?

To say that people aren't challenging him or they're just going the other way, whether it's the run game or coverage, Texas threw the ball really well going into our game. They had a lot of success against very good people, and they didn't have success in that particular area going in the interior of the defense.

On Smith shoring up the tackling issues from his safety spot

Venables: Well, it's position. Positioning on the ball and being in the right place.

On if Marcus Walker is playing as well as any corner they've had in the last couple of years

Venables: It's hard to compare him to other guys, but he's playing really well. He's played good since he's been in there. He's played really well. Sure has.

On if he feels they've made great progress defensively from the start of the season to what they're doing now

Venables: I thought the last two weeks we played more consistent than we did before. So great progress in that regard.

When we play consistent, consistent can mean a lot of things. Consistency means not letting somebody get behind you. Well, we did that in this game. That part you don't like, but there was a lot of other times when obviously they didn't throw it because they weren't open. They weren't behind us, so that happened many times.

Why didn't they throw it? Because they were covered well. From that standpoint, our biggest improvement is the consistency. That's plagued us in the first few games and we were better in the last two games.

On if he has his mind made up that Reggie Smith will be the safety for the rest of the year

Venables: You would like for guys to continue to get better at other positions. If someone can be better than him at safety, then that means we're back where we'd like to be and he'd be at corner.

On if Clayton is their only other option safety

Venables: Jason Carter's another option.

On if freshman Quinton Carter is getting any looks

Venables: No.

On being better last year than this year statistically as far as their pass rush, and does that mean that they're not getting a good pass rush this season

Venables: We had good pressure. The first week was an option team that was a bottled up offense. The second week we had great pressure on the quarterback. He (Washington's Isaiah Stanback) was a tremendous athlete, but we probably gave away five, six sacks where guys are coming free all over the place.

He just was a better athlete than our athletes out there. He's shown that he's a pretty good player since our game. I know that some people said he couldn't throw — all he could do was run. But he's been able to manage against some pretty good people since we played them. So that was some of the issues there, but we missed some tackles in that game that probably would've put us back to more of the normal numbers that we'd like to see from sacks.

Then we didn't play very good in Oregon. We got the one sack. Again, they were a quick type of passing team and they blocked us pretty well. And then Middle Tennessee the pressure was good and last week there was decent pressure. But again, they (Texas) were a bottled up type of offense too. We had a couple of other opportunities to sack the quarterback and missed them.

On how they've done when blitzing so far this season

Venables: I think we've missed too many times. It's not as much getting blocked, as they've either gotten rid of it or we've missed them probably more times this year than we have in the last probably three years combined.

On the competition at middle linebacker between Zach Latimer and Curtis Lofton

Venables: Curtis has been practicing well. After the game, even during the game, I thought I'd like to get him in and he's ready but Zach's playing really good too. Zach had a nice game. Played well.

I get comfortable in my ways, and he's (Lofton) earned the right to get out there and I'd like to get him out there. So my plan, like it was last week, is to play him. Curtis has been really progressing well and I'm really happy with where he's at.

On if he can sense that some of players are down on their play and are taking another look at themselves

Venables: I think the guys that you might be talking about are guys that have been used to playing really well and making a bunch of plays. As much as anything, it's not that the guys are not trying and not preparing and not practicing hard or working hard, sometimes when you try to do too much you don't do anything.

That happens. I've seen it happen in my coaching career more with seniors than anybody. It's because they want to do so well. To a man, their focus has been where they're at but at the same time they know that they're being looked at sometimes you can press and try and make every great play. You can be your own worst enemy.

On how defensive end John Williams is playing after suffering a season-ending knee injury last year

Venables: He hasn't gotten out there that much to really know. I don't know.

On the challenge that ISU quarterback Bret Meyer will give OU's defense

Venables: He does it all really well. He makes good decisions, he's completing 60 percent of his balls and he's averaging about 10-12 clips a game running the football effectively. They've got a designed quarterback run game.

Obviously, he's got great weapons around him and a senior-dominated offensive line that does a great job protecting him. They have three good receivers that all have a lot of the same qualities and traits. They're big and physical and all go up and catch the ball well.

Stevie Hicks is a good, powerful back that takes a little bit of pressure off the quarterback. I know they throw it more than run it, statistically speaking like most people, but I know they push for balance in what they do.

But he (Meyer) makes a lot of decisions and very few poor decisions. He's got a lot poise, he's got a big arm, can throw the ball down the field. He's buys time with his legs, he's got good vision. Sometimes a running quarterback that's also a thrower at times, when things break down, they're looking just to run. And that's not the case with him unfortunately. He's got good vision down the field and receivers with good awareness that know how to get open and find a whole.

They present a big-time challenge for us so we'll have to work hard and play well to defend him and have a chance to win.

On if they play three wide receivers most of the time in their sets

Venables: Yes, otherwise they're in a two-tight end, one-back with two wideouts. But most of what you'll see is three- and four-wides, and then a little bit of five-wide stuff. It's split up probably 67-70 percent is three- and four-wides.

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories