Oklahoma football: Deal is done with Brent Venables to become new OU head coach

The deal is done, and the name that was getting the most buzz since the search for a new Oklahoma football head coach commenced a week ago has landed the job.

ESPN’s Chris Lowe reported Sunday night the deal has been finalized with Brent Venables to become the next Oklahoma head coach, a name that should be very familiar to Sooner fans. The story was first reported by The Athletic.

Oklahoma made the official announcement in a press release posted to the OU athletic department website on Sunday evening.

Venables was an assistant under Bob Stoops, coaching linebackers and as defensive coordinator, in 13 seasons on the OU coaching staff from 1999 to 2011. He left Oklahoma after the 2011 season to become defensive coordinator for the Clemson Tigers.

During his time at Clemson, Venables’ defensive unit was consistently rated as one of the best in college football, something Oklahoma officials would like to see him replicate with the Sooners. The OU defense has been under great scrutiny for the better part of the past decade, and has been the biggest reason given for the Sooners not winning a College Football Playoff game despite four appearances.

Venables had numerous chances to leave Clemson for a head-coaching opportunity, but always opted out to remain with head coach Dabo Swinney and the Tigers. And Clemson can be thankful that he did. In large part to their lockdown defense under Venables’ direction and leadership, the Tigers won outright or tied for six Atlantic Coast Conference championships, made six appearances in the College Football Playoff and won two national championships.

The former Clemson defensive coordinator, who won the Broyles Award in 2016 as the best assistant coach in college football, has been waiting for the right opportunity to come along, which is why he remained at Clemson for so long and turned down a number of previous head-coaching opportunities.

It appears Venables has found the right opportunity, and the initial reaction among Sooner fans, who were left in a state of shock just a week ago, is very enthusiastic. The new Oklahoma head coach is expected to be formally introduced at a press conference either Monday or Tuesday.

The idea of bringing back Venables has resonated positively with Sooners fans since his name first surfaced as a prime target for the head coach’s position vacated by Lincoln Riley. As the days went by this past week and some rumored targets fell by the wayside, the prospects to land Venables appeared to be getting stronger, and on Saturday the target list was reported to be down to three remaining candidates: Venables, Dan Lanning, defensive coordinator at Georgia, and Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickel.

By early Sunday morning, all the talk was about OU officials being close to finalize a deal with Venables.

Although details of Venables’ OU contract were not immediately available, he had received a contract extension at Clemson prior to the 2021 season that made him the highest-paid assistant coach in college football at $2.5 million annually.

It is not yet confirmed, but Venables is believed to be bringing Ole Miss offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby with him to Oklahoma. Lebby is recognized as one of college football’s brightest young offensive coaches. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it, to what Lincoln Riley brought when he first arrived in Norman? Lebby also has ties to Oklahoma. He graduated from OU in 2007.