Oklahoma football: Sooners targeting Alabama assistant as defensive backs coach

New OU football coach Brent Venables said the Sooners' job was the perfect fit for him to leave Clemson.tramel
New OU football coach Brent Venables said the Sooners' job was the perfect fit for him to leave Clemson.tramel /

The Oklahoma football coaching staff under new head coach Brent Venables is rounding into final form. And it looks to be a good one.

Over the past several weeks, along with a heavy recruiting schedule, Venables has filled six staff positions with new assistants, and he’s still looking to add at least one more spot.

All six have ties to either Clemson or Oklahoma.

Over the past several weeks, the Sooners have added offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Ted Roof, and Jerry Schmidt is the new strength and conditioning coach, reuniting with Venables and the Sooners after a lengthy stint on the OU staff under Bob Stoops.

Also joining the the Oklahoma staff are Miguel Chavis, who will work with the defensive ends, Brandon Hall, who will coach the safeties, and earlier this week Venables named Todd Bates as defensive tackles coach and co-defensive coordinator.

After plucking three defensive assistants off of Dabo Swinney’s coaching staff at Clemson, where Venables had been the defensive coordinator for the past 10 seasons, it has been widely rumored that Venables is now targeting an Alabama assistant.

According to Matt Zenitz of On3Sports, and reported Monday by John Williams of Sooners Wire, a blog affiliated with USA Today Sports, the Sooners are targeting Jay Valai, the cornerbacks coach at Alabama, to come to OU.

Valai is a former All-Big Ten defensive back at Wisconsin who has coached defensive backs at both the college and NFL levels. He spent this past season working for Nick Saban at Alabama and is busy this week helping prepare the Crimson Tide for their national championship game Monday night against Georgia.

Before coming to Alabama for the 2021 season, Valai spent two seasons at Rutgers and in 2018 was with the Kansas City Chiefs as defensive quality control coach and assistant defensive backs coach. The Texas native, was a member of the Georgia coaching staff in 2017 and coached against Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff national semifinal game.

Remaining on the Oklahoma coaching staff as a carryover from Lincoln Riley’s staff are Cale Gundy, a former Sooner player and longtime OU assistant who coaches the inside receivers, offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, running backs coach DeMarco Murray and Jo Jon Finley, who coaches the tight ends and H-backs.

Former Oklahoma offensive lineman Phil Loadholt is also joining the coaching staff as defensive support.

Both Murray and Finley played at OU under Bob Stoops. Gundy was the starting QB at OU from 1990-03.