Oklahoma football: Cleaning house on a few false narratives

Oct. 29, 2022; Ames, Iowa, USA; Oklahoma head football coach Brent Venables reacts after his defense stopped an Iowa State drive in the fourth quarter at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bryon Houlgrave/Des Moines Register-USA TODAY Sports
Oct. 29, 2022; Ames, Iowa, USA; Oklahoma head football coach Brent Venables reacts after his defense stopped an Iowa State drive in the fourth quarter at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bryon Houlgrave/Des Moines Register-USA TODAY Sports /

Oklahoma football has had a very tough season, and the roller coaster season has created a miniature divide among the fan base in identifying what the problems are within the program.

Some have alluded to it being coaching, others point at talent, and some at simply the amount of turnover. There are several ways to look at the topic, and today I dismiss some false narratives that are out there.

Things have not gone well this year for OU being just 5-5. With two losses at home, two blowout losses early in the year back-to-back, and a loss at West Virginia perhaps that’s an understatement. The reality is there truly is no amount of excuses or reasoning that explain away that level of futility from a program like OU.

Narrative #1:  Lack of Talent

Plenty of people believe that the talent on the Oklahoma football roster simply cannot hack it. The turnover, and mix and match parts OU added from the portal just is not up to par.

Tim’s Verdict: FALSE

Oklahoma football has plenty of talent, no matter which way you use to measure talent. Oklahoma stacks up among one of the best rosters in the entire sport. The Sooners have 54 four or five-star prospects on their roster and is fourth in the nation in blue-chip rate. Oklahoma has several top-tier players that they won in direct competition in recruiting with other big-time programs.

There is also not a big disparity in talent from the offense to the defense. Of the 44 two deep, Oklahoma has only eight players among them that were not at least a four-star out of high school or as a transfer. Each of those eight is backed up directly by a blue-chip prospect as well. Talent isn’t an issue at Oklahoma and looks like it will only continue to build up going forward.

Some of the top talent is young on the roster, and with the Sooners losing so many close games, it’s not hard to envision a future with a team improved by simply gaining experience.

Narrative #2: Venables doesn’t have the right players to run his scheme or size

The cupboard was not left bare by Lincoln Riley and Alex Grinch. Defensively, the Sooners do have the quality players to fit the base 4-2-5 scheme Brent Venables likes to run. These players not only have the talent but adequate size.

Tim’s Verdict: Mixture 

While Oklahoma has players of the right size at each position on the field on defense and have the personnel to run the 4-2-5 scheme, it is true that Oklahoma does not have enough bodies to play as a nose guard, when Brent’s multiple defense decides to go to the three-down approach.  In the three-down scheme, you need a guy head up on the center that can hold two gaps, or take two blocks, Isaiah Coe fits this mold, but nobody else really does at the moment. Oklahoma will have to develop kids and bring in transfers or recruit guys who can play the nose.

Narrative #3: Culture rebuild too much for year one

Some make the claim that Oklahoma had a broken program under Lincoln Riley, that lacked player development, among other nefarious issues that are bleeding over.

Tim’s take: FALSE

Lincoln Riley’s program had some flaws without a doubt — look directly at Bennie Wylie. However, the program was NOT fundamentally broken. Oklahoma lost no more than two games in any season under Lincoln Riley and had not had fewer than 11 victories (aside from the shortened Covid season) since 2014. Oklahoma played the portal game well and brought in high school talent that was envious to all but a handful of programs around the country.

Riley might not be a morally strong dude for the way he left Oklahoma, or what he tried to do on his way out. But Riley is an excellent headman, he is continuing to prove his mettle on the west coast. While S&C needed work the Sooners have a great administration and culture already.

Narrative #4:  The Oklahoma recruiting class will fall apart

Many people are worried that this Oklahoma recruiting class will fall apart. Rumors about Anthony Evans, and the recent flips of Kaleb Spencer and Colton Vasek. understandably have people nervous. But the core of this class is strong and locked in, starting with 5-star QB Jackson Arnold, and EDGE PJ Adebawore, among others.

Tim’s verdict: FALSE

This class will get stronger, and though it isn’t impossible that Oklahoma could lose say, Anthony Evans, they are far from done adding players themselves. This class has a big time chance of ending in the top five.

Narrative #5: Coaching has been poor

Coaching has been questionable at times for Oklahoma, from the implementation of the comically large game plans to run formations that do not fit to the player’s strengths and playing players outside of position, there have been some questionable coaching moves this year.

Tim’s verdict:  TRUE, but can be fixed

This is Brent Venables’ first year as a head coach and he has to wear a lot of hats, there are also some assistants that probably should not return to Oklahoma in 2023. This is an area where a little bit of experience can be a tremendous boost next season. Will Brent take that step? That’s a question that’s yet to be answered.