Brent Venables sees plenty of progress as Sooners get set to open 2023 season

Head coach Brent Venables runs drills with players during an OU football practice in Norman, Okla., on Monday, Aug. 7, 2023.
Head coach Brent Venables runs drills with players during an OU football practice in Norman, Okla., on Monday, Aug. 7, 2023. /

Like most Sooner fans, head coach Brent Venables is excited to get the 2023 Oklahoma football season underway. OU enters its third week of fall training camp this week with just 12 days to go before suiting up for real in the season opener at home against Arkansas State.

It’s a new season, and with it comes the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start anew. It’s been a long, difficult offseason in the aftershocks of a 6-7 2022 season, the first losing season by an Oklahoma football team in a quarter century.

From Day 1 on the job as the 23rd head coach in Sooner football history, Venables has emphasized that little things matter, every day and in everything you do.

"“Having the right mindset when it comes to every moment on the practice field, every rep in the meeting room, everything matters,” he said to reporters after practice one day last week."

Asked what he and his coaches are looking for when the games start for real on Sept. 2, Venables said, “The things we talked about before we started camp. Just the overall efficiency of everything. I want to see improvement in the areas that we’re looking for.”

The Sooners allowed 461 yards of offense per game last season. That was 122nd out of 131 FBS teams and not even close to meeting the high standards that have long been a mark of the Oklahoma football program.

Defense is the prime area where Venables and the defensive coaches are looking for greater efficiency and continuity, and there is an expectation that the defense will be better this season. The OU head coach is of that mindset too because he is seeing it come together on the practice field and with a number of new faces playing key roles.

“Confidence. Aggressiveness. Physicality.” Those are the three words Venables uses to describe the new-look defensive unit heading into the 2023 season.

It will never be good enough or accomplished fast enough, Venables says, especially at Oklahoma, where the expectations and standards are so high to begin with. And it’s not just improvement in the players and in what they do both individually and as a team that’s important, it’s improvement by the coaches, always trying to get better.

“A coach’s job is not to make you happy. A coach’s job is to make you better,” Venables said. If you’re not improving, you’re staying the same or, worse, falling back, while everyone else is getting better. That’s precisely the predicament Oklahoma has found itself in the past couple of years.

“We’ve still got a long way to go, a lot we’ve got to improve on,” Venables said, but he likes the direction and spirit of the team. “We’re in a good spot,” he said.

In a few short weeks, Sooner fans will get to see for themselves what Team 129 is all about in 2023 and what the season may hold in Year 2 under Venables.