Brent Venables brings new direction, dedication and a die-hard mentality to Oklahoma football

OU head coach Brent Venables (center) works with players during practice Monday morning in Norman.cover small
OU head coach Brent Venables (center) works with players during practice Monday morning in Norman.cover small /

If you listen to what the preview publications, the pundits and the Las Vegas oddsmakers are projecting about Oklahoma football in the 2022 season, it lacks some of the pizazz of the past.

Fortunately for Sooner fans, new head coach Brent Venables doesn’t care a lick about all the preseason predictions and punditry.

With fall training camp well underway, triggering the official start to the new college football season, the preseason hype about the 2022 edition of Sooner football has been held to a low roar. This is highly uncharacteristic of OU football in recent years, but in the big scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. Because all that really matters is what you do when the games start for real.

When Venables first arrived back in Norman after a 10-season stint as defensive coordinator at Clemson that included two national championship teams and a number of first-round NFL Draft defensive players, he observed that there was too much casualness in the OU football program and not enough mental and physical toughness.

From Day 1 as the new Oklahoma head football coach, Venables has brought an infectious energy and enthusiasm and a rekindled championship spirit to the program. And the team has responded in a very positive fashion. It was very noticeable in spring practice, and it appears to have taken an even stronger hold through the opening days of fall training camp.

“His speeches, they’ll have you ready to run through a wall,” said senior receiver Drake Stoops about his new head coach during the spring practice period.

Venables has made it a point of emphasizing to the Sooner players that just going through the motions as a matter of putting in the work is an exercise in mediocrity. You have to be dedicated and willing to put in the hard work, even going above and beyond, as well as the physical and mental preparation to achieve excellence in everything you do.

“If we’re going to be a championship programs,” Venables says, “how you do anything is how you do everything. And everything matters.”

"“Brent practices being ready for game day every day,” said OU athletic director Joe Castiglione. “It’s a habit.”"

Venables isn’t concerned with how may games the media or the Las Vegas oddsmakers predict Oklahoma will win this season or where the Sooners are ranked in the plethora of preseason top-25 projections.

"“Nobody’s expectations can exceed my own,” the OU head coach said during Big 12 Media Days. “No fan base. No history. None.”"

Earlier this summer, the media who cover Big 12 football came out with their preseason awards and honors. Only two Sooners appeared on the Preseason All-Big 12 Team. That’s a considerable drop off from previous seasons.

Also, the Athlon Sports 2022 College Football Preview issue listed its preseason All-Americans consisting of four teams and more than 100 players. By now, you may sense where I’m going with this. Not one Oklahoma players was listed on offense or defense on any of the four preseason All-America teams. That has not happened in more than 22 years, Venables told ESPN staff writer David M. Hale in an interview last month.

“My message to the team is, ‘Yeah, that’s Life 101. You get what you earn,” Venables said. ‘We don’t deserve to have success. You don’t deserve to be recognized among the best, even if you had a great year a year ago.

“You start over every year and don’t ever get it twisted,’ he said…’Here’s where we are boys.”‘

In the weekly Oklahoma press conference this week, Venables was asked about the resignation of assistant head coach Cale Gundy and its impact on the team.

“We talked about Murphy’s Law one time, didn’t we?” Venables said. “Here it is. This won’t be the last time there’s a crisis and issues you have to deal with head on.

"“Nobody asked for this issue to happen,” he said, “but how we respond ultimately, as we know, will determine how we are defined.”"

The OU head coach went on to say: “This issue aside, the Oklahoma program with Cale Gundy is stronger than one without him. But I couldn’t be more excited about L’Damien Washington and the opportunity that he has with these guys (coaching the Sooner wide receivers) this year.”