Brent Venables: On to the task of building, forming a staff

Dec 6, 2021; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head football coach Brent Venables speaks to the media. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 6, 2021; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head football coach Brent Venables speaks to the media. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

One of the first duties for new Oklahoma football head coach Brent Venables is to put together his staff.

That includes decisions on the seven assistant coaches who are still in place as well as the spots vacated by four assistants who elected to follow Lincoln Riley to USC.

Venables, who was an Oklahoma assistant, mainly as defensive coordinator, for 13 seasons under Bob Stoops, said at his OU welcoming ceremony on Monday that he would hire both an offensive and defensive coordinator. His top target for offensive coordinator is Jeff Lebby, an OU grad who for the past two seasons has directed the offense at Ole Miss.

Given Venables’ well-earned reputation as one of, it not the best defensive coordinators in college football, it will be intriguing to see who he brings in for that job.

Venables said he’d be “working aggressively” to put a staff together and had strong options among the remaining staff. Of the seven assistant coaches who chose to stay after Riley left, four played for the Sooners while Venables was on the OU staff and Cale Gundy, co-offensive coordinator, inside wide-receivers coach and recruiting coordinator, was hired along with Venables as part of the original staff when Bob Stoops became head coach.

The remaining assistants include longtime assistant and former OU quarterback Cale Gundy, offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh; defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux, one of the assistants who played at OU when Venables was on staff; inside linebackers coach Brian Odom; running backs coach DeMarco Murray, and Jo Jon Finley, who coaches the H-backs and tight ends. Both Murray and Finley played for the Sooners during Venables time on the OU coaching staff.

Outside linebacker and defensive ends coach Jamar Cain is currently listed on OU athletic website, but is reported to be leaving to join Riley’s staff at USC. Another Sooner assistant, Roy Manning, who coached the OU cornerbacks resigned on Sunday after reports surfaced last week that he was allegedly recruiting for Riley and USC while still a member of the Oklahoma coaching staff.

So Venables obviously has staff positions to fill, but after his formal introduction at Oklahoma on Monday he immediately hit the road on a recruiting trip to meet with current and future Sooner commitments. I would expect, however, that we will begin hearing about new staff additions over the next few weeks, particularly the two coordinator roles.

“My No. 1 goal is to get on the road recruiting,” Venables said during his formal introduction to the Sooner Nation at the Everest Training Center on the OU campus. “Make sure that this 2022 class due to enroll here in the next few weeks is where it needs to be. And then, in between visits, visiting with our current players.”