Oklahoma football: Today is two-year anniversary of Brent Venables’ hiring as HC

Dec 5, 2021; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners new head football coach Brent Venables high fives fans after arriving at the airport. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 5, 2021; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners new head football coach Brent Venables high fives fans after arriving at the airport. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

Today marks the two-year anniversary of the hiring of Brent Venables as the 23rd head coach in Oklahoma football history.

The then 50-year-old Venables returned to Norman and was officially announced as head coach on Dec. 5, 2021.

Venables was hired to replace Lincoln Riley, who left the program suddenly after the 2021 season to take the head job at USC. While there was considerable second-guessing by both media and fans after the Sooners finished with a highly disappointing 5-7 overall record and just 3-6 in the Big 12 in Venables’ first season as head coach, the boo-bird chatter has largely dissipated in Year 2 with Oklahoma sporting a 10-2 record (7-2 in the conference) heading into the 2023 postseason

Venables is part of the Bob Stoops coaching tree. He followed Stoops to Oklahoma from Kansas State in 1999 and served on the Sooners’ staff under Stoops for 13 seasons, working with the linebackers and as defensive coordinator, a job he shared with Mike Stoops and later outright.

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“This is an incredibly special opportunity,” Venables said to the crowd gathered at University of Oklahoma Westheimer Airport upon his arrival in Norman on this date after being official announced as the new OU head coach.

"“(Oklahoma is) one of the winningest and most tradition-rich programs in college football history.“There’s no question we are equipped to compete at the very highest level and attract the best players from across the country. The OU logo has never been stronger.”"

In the 13 years he was with the Sooners previously, Oklahoma won 139 games and lost 34, including seven Big 12 championships and a national title in 2000.

In 2012, Venables left OU to become defensive coordinator at Clemson. He remained in that position for a decade. While he was at Clemson, the Tigers won six Atlantic Coast Conference championships and two national championships. Clemson’s overall record during the time Venables was leading the defense was 121-17. The Clemson defense during Venables’ time on staff ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense, total defense and third-down defense for most of his tenure.

Given how far the Oklahoma defense had fallen under Riley and defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, defensive improvement was undoubtedly a big factor in hiring Venables, but probably not any more so than the fact that the former Sooner defensive coordinator and assistant coach was one of OU’s own.

While the Sooner defense continued to struggle in Venables’ first season back at Oklahoma, his second season represented a marked improvement in a number of areas but still isn’t at the level that the new head coach wants to see as the Sooners prepare to exit the Big 12 for the SEC next season.

A big element of continuous improvement is recruiting — both from the traditional high school ranks as well as the talent and experience infusion that seemingly grows deeper and deeper every year in via the burgeoning transfer portal.

Venables and his coaching staff have done exceedingly well in the recruiting area. His 2023 class ranked in the top four in two of the major recruiting services and Oklahoma’s 2024 class currently ranks 7th nationally according to247Sports and is 6th by Rivals.

Former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, who was on Stoops’ first coaching staff at OU along with Venables, is a giant supporter of the new Sooner head coach and speaks highly of him as both an outstanding football coach and as a person. In a radio interview this fall, Mangino said if Oklahoma and its fans give up on Venables too early, it would be the biggest mistake they could ever make.

Two years in, we are starting to see the truth in what Mangino was saying.