The Norman Transcript


August 6, 2008

10 years in, Venables still vital


Mike Balogun, a junior linebacker who’s been in Norman for about 10 minutes out of Lackawanna College, was describing his position coach Wednesday morning, Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

“Just the energy and the enthusiasm that he brings,” he said. “You feed off that. He really likes things up tempo.”

Yet it was what Balogun was doing as he said, “You feed off that …”

Because he was snapping his fingers.

Minutes earlier, at a lectern, Venables did the talking. Along with Bobby Jack Wright, Cale Gundy and Jackie Shipp, he’s about to enter his 10th season along with coach Bob Stoops. He had plenty to say because he always has plenty to say, and still the throwaway lines were the most revealing.

Somebody asked about defenses catching up to spread offenses and Venables launched into his answer, basically saying the Sooners had to be better, but finished by explaining that OU will face several “two-back” foes as well. He ticked them off: Chattanooga, Washington, Texas and Texas A&M.;

Asked about entering his 10th season, he said time’s flown by, that he probably hadn’t contemplated being here so long but it’s not the kind of thing “you think about when you’re getting ready for Indiana State.”

Finally, speaking about OU’s defensive performance at the Fiesta Bowl, he pointed out 51 of West Virginia’s 59 plays went for 3 yards or less but “the eight plays, they’re going for touchdowns all over the damn place.”

It explains so much.

Because while interesting the spread may no longer be spreading, it’s more telling to hear Venables rattle off the two-back opponents like he’d watched the film yesterday, rather than weeks and months ago.

And while worth noting the hot young coach who arrived at OU as defensive coordinator Mike Stoops’ top lieutenant remains a Sooner, it’s far more revealing to hear Venables bark out the name of that very first opponent, the Sycamores, because like seemingly everything in his past, the memory is just so vivid. Thinking about his longevity, it all comes rushing back.

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