Brent Venables saw ‘too much casualness’ when he arrived back at OU

Oklahoma coach Brent Venables blows a whistle during the University of Oklahoma's annual spring football game at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, April 23, 2022.Ou Sooners Spring Football Game
Oklahoma coach Brent Venables blows a whistle during the University of Oklahoma's annual spring football game at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, April 23, 2022.Ou Sooners Spring Football Game /

New Oklahoma football head coach Brent Venables knew there would be changes when he took the job last December.

The first order of business when Venables landed back in Norman after a 10-year hiatus and establishing himself as perhaps the best defensive coordinator in college football while at Clemson — in addition to filling out the coaching staff and working to hold together the Sooners’ highly ranked 2022 recruiting class in the wake of the uncertainty surrounding the coaching change — was to instill a new culture based on hard work and accountability.

Venables was able to get right down to work — hitting the pavement running, as they say — because of the trusted help and support from his former head coach Bob Stoops, who offered up his services right away, the same day that Riley announced he was leaving the program Stoops had turned over to him upon his retirement in the spring of 2017.

Stoops jumped right in, talking with the team and taking over the preparation for its Alamo appearance against Oregon. He also was busy on the recruiting trail, speaking with the Sooner commitments and helping them understand and feel comfortable with the changes going on in the Oklahoma football program.

OU’s national prominence in college football was established long before Riley arrived in Norman, and it will be here long after he has left, Stoops reiterated. “No one coach is bigger than the Oklahoma football brand — not me, not Barry Switzer, and not coach Riley,” he said. He has made that declaration on multiple occasions in the nearly six months that have followed.

Stoops was there, jumping in to handle the day-to-day workings with the team while Venables and his emerging staff were getting on with business of present and future organizational needs. The Sooners were extremely fortunate to have Stoops, a Hall of Fame coach, present and immediately available to help out. That’s not typically the way these things work.

Back to Venables, though, the new Sooner head man, who is certainly no stranger to Oklahoma football or the Sooner fan base,

"“We’re starting over,” Venables told the crowd of around 100 in attendance in Amarillo, Texas, for a recent OU Coaches Caravan stop. “We’re stripping this bad boy down to the studs.”"

Venables didn’t waste any time implementing changes within days of taking over the head coaching responsibilities. In observing the team in the leadup to its postseason Alamo Bowl appearance, the new head coach was a bit surprised at what he observed.

"“I saw too much casualness,” he said, “too much nonchalantness when I came to see the team prepare for the bowl game.”"

Although Stoops was actively involved working with the team in the early days of the coaching transition, Venables did address the team once before the December bowl game.

“We don’t need a program in disarray,” he said. “Y’all love this university You all care for one another. You got a bunch of assistants decide to go ahead and stay here and put it all in. You got a Hall of Fame coach (who) is willing to put his neck on the line, make some sacrifice and come back here and lead y’all. So, you got a chance right now to make a statement in college football.”

The pep talk worked, because Oklahoma came out and absolutely destroyed Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. The Sooners fired out to a 30-3 halftime advantage and cruised to a 47-32 victory over the 14th-ranked Ducks.

After seeing what this team was capable of, Venables said he got really excited to get to work and start laying the foundation for a new culture and championship mindset.

To say Venables is a high-energy guy is a gross understatement. He has a passion for the game of football. He knows what it takes to be a winner and knows all too well that it isn’t just handed to you. You have to be dedicated and willing to put in the hard work as well as the mental and physical preparation to achieve excellence in everything you do.

Venables has made a point of that every time he has had the opportunity to speak with fans.

"“If we’re gonna be a championship program, how you do anything is how you do everything,” he said. “And everything matters.”"

The product of this new culture and leadership style will be on full display for Sooner fans and the rest of the college football world in the fall of 2022.