Co-Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables is one of the top assistant coaches in the country. Many in college football believe that he will soon be a head coach of his own program and many feel that he is a can't-miss type of guy.
Venables is on quite a run as linebacker coach at OU. Early in his career he coached Torrance Marshall and Rocky Calmus, with Calmus earning All-American honors and the Butkus Award. Both players are now playing in the NFL. This past season junior Teddy Lehman earned first team All-American honors and Lehman was a finalist for the Butkus award. Junior college transfer Lance Mitchell was named the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year and fellow transfer Pasha Jackson played well as a starter and is a future pro.
Also don't forget about Jeff Kelly at Kansas State. Kelly almost was a Sooner before Venables and the Wildcats stole him away from the Sooners. Kelly went on to earn All-American honors and also played in the NFL. Venables recently sat down to talk to OUInsider.com about the Sooners early bowl preparation and how some of the young players were doing in the OU program.
JH: Many of the young players get a ton of reps during your early bowl preparations, do you almost have to teach them how to practice with the varsity again?
BV: "It just depends on the individual. We have a system and even when they are on scout we try to tie everything on the same calls schematically that they would be performing with the varsity. No matter if they are running offense or defense we try to keep things familiar for them and keep things in relative terms. The tempo is the biggest key there needs to be an adjustment with.
"We had a good scrimmage Sunday night with a number of the two's, three's and some of the four's, and had a great scrimmage with a lot of great hitting, tackling and great executing of our offense and defense. We hit the deep ball on offense, but had good pressure on the quarterback on defense. There were a lot of encouraging things from our young guys on defense. The same was true on the other side of the ball as Donta Hickson had a heck of a scrimmage, breaking a couple of long runs. he o-line looked good as they are getting better and better cohesion among the young offensive linemen. The young quarterbacks looked awfully good, especially Noah Allen and Paul Thompson in particular."
JH: What players on the defensive side really stood out for you?
BV: "Probably Rufus Alexander, Larry Birdine, Micheal Hawkins, Jason Carter, Brodney Pool, and Wayne Chambers are just a few of the players who really stood out on defense."
JH: You have a pretty good young linebacker corp that will need to play in the not to distant future.
BV: "Yeah, we still have a ways to go believe it or not. They will have a chance and we will keep them around to see what they can do around here in the future.
JH: That is why it is very important that you recruit linebackers very well in this class and so far you have recruited a fantastic linebacker class. Isn't it correct to say that those players will have an opportunity to play as soon as they step on campus?
BV: "Those players will have an opportunity to compete for spots in the two-deep from day one. They will have an opportunity to learn from some very, very good senior linebackers going into next year. Guys who have great character and great work ethic and guys with certain play making ability. They will be tremendous mentors for those new linebackers that do come into the program. This is a critical year for us in recruiting in regards to linebackers and we can't make any mistakes. There is no margin for error at that position. We have to hit the homerun ball with linebackers this year."
JH: You brought your recruits to your practice recently, which is something not all programs like to do. What is your strategy behind the practice?
BV: "We like to have the recruits see the tempo that we practice with and we like them to see up close and personal the physical nature that we work at. We want them seeing our players blitzing and getting after the quarterback and they get a chance to see our players enjoy practice and have a good time. Our players have a good chemistry among themselves so there is a lot of energy and enthusiasm t any given practice. Then the recruits get an opportunity to match themselves up against the players that they will be competing against. So, then the recruiting process is not as much about your sales job, but it's how the recruits see themselves and how they feel they will be able to compete with our players once they get on the field. Most recruits believe in themselves a great deal and have a pretty high regard for themselves, so they usually leave our practice field still feeling pretty good about themselves. They will also see that nobody has great depth at any position and that includes us. Certainly, we don't have great quality depth at every position and hopefully they will see that as well and realize that there are opportunities for them.
JH: Most programs try to hide their depth on their roster, however you are showing recruits your depth in person. Do you feel this practice really helps you in the long run?
BV: "Football players in general enjoy the idea of a challenge and it is our way of challenging them to get on our practice field and to make us a better football team. I think they relish those challenges, but I also think that we are sincere and honest in our approach. There is no gray area on how we do things once they enroll and on our campus. I think they can appreciate that compared to what we hear from some other schools."
Interview with Brent Venables
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