Brent Venables: 'Our team not built for the conference we're in'


Spring practice for the SEC-bound Oklahoma football Sooners kicked off this week in preparation for the 2024 season. The annual spring Red-White game is scheduled for April 20.

Head coach Brent Venables acknowledged last week in his pre-spring practice interview session that there is a lot of work to be done between now and the start of the season some five months from now. He also noted how impressed he was with the 22 early enrollees from the Sooners top 10-ranked 2024 recruiting class.

"It's really a tough group of guys," Venables said about the members of the 2024 class who are already on campus. "The mental toughness that I watched the last eight weeks is exemplary. It was never easy for any of them, but these guys were fearless."

This is one of the most important spring practices in the long, illustrious history of Oklahoma football. The Sooners are leaving a conference that they have largely dominated over the past seventy-five years. In the 28-year history of the Big 12 alone, Oklahoma has won 14 conference championships.

There are plenty of concerns about how ready the Sooners will be to compete in the SEC, considered to be the strongest conference in college football. And the conference schedule Oklahoma will face in its inaugural SEC season is one of the most difficult of any team at the FBS level.

John Hoover of FanNation's "All Sooners" website, a platform within the Sports Illustrated network, summarized the concern around OU's SEC move this way in a recent article: "Can Venables and his staff recruit on Georgia's level? Can they develop NFL talent on LSU's level? Can they win on Alabama's level?"

Venables appears confident that they can, if not immediately then certainly over the long term.

Asked specifically if he thought Oklahoma was prepared and ready to compete at the highest level of the SEC, which now also will include the Sooners' chief rival, Texas, Venables said,

"Regardless of the conference affiliation, my job has always been to build the most competitive, fastest, strongest group of football players we can."

OU head coach Brent Venables

"I really like where we are in a lot of places," the third-year Sooner head coach said. "We're anxious and excited to see our guys get out on the field, our coaches and players together, to do spring ball.

"We'll see if the investment and commitment is there as we develop our team. Ultimately, that will be the test of what we're going to be, what our commitment is."

In addition to all the new players, prime attention in spring practice will be to observe the growth and development of quarterback Jackson Arnold, who takes over in his first full season as the Sooner starter replacing the departed Dillon Gabriel.

Venables also announced prior to the start of spring practice that linebacker/defensive backJustin Harrington has been granted his medical waiver giving him an extra year of eligibility. Harrington started last season at the "Cheetah" position in Venables' defense but was injured early in the season and missed the rest of the year.

Harrington will not participate in spring practice, but Venables said he and WR Andrel Anthony, who suffered a knee injury in the Texas game last season, were doing well in their rehab work and are expected to be healthy and ready to go when the season starts.