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2005 Season Preview Issue Available Now!!

Letter from the Editor

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Ever Elusive

Sooner Selections

Ole Miss powers past Sooners

OU's Weekly Sports Report

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Prelude To Greatness?

Breaking Down The Offense

Spring football eases pain

Sooner Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables - photo by LaizurePhoto
Brent Venables Q&A
Sooner Defensive Coordinator talks to Sooner Spectator

Another collegiate football season is just around the corner and the first reminder occurred today in Norman when Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops hosted his annual media day event. Instead of the usual round of golf, members of the media were treated to cooler temperatures at the Sooner Bowling Center.

Between frames, Sooner Spectator editor Jay C. Upchurch caught up with defensive coordinator Brent Venables and got his thoughts on the 2005 OU defense:

Sooner Spectator: Obviously, there is plenty of work to be done between now and the season opener on Sept. 3, but what excites you most about the prospects of this defense?

Brent Venables: The athleticism is really something that jumps out at you about this group. We’re not short-handed at any position. We have some question marks in regards to experienced depth at a couple spots, but the athletic ability across the board is impressive. There are going to be a bunch of young guys in the two-deep once the dust settles and that excites you. Typically, those guys are very hungry, very coachable — things aren’t old hat or mundane for them. You can really stress the finer points of the game and get a great response.

SS: Do you like the mix of veterans and youth on the defense?

Venables: Definitely. We have a good blend of experience and play-making ability coming back to give us that balance. Anytime you have guys like Dusty (Dvoracek) and Larry (Birdine) up front, and Rufus (Alexander) and Clint (Ingram) at linebacker, you’ve got the makings of a good nucleus. Those guys have been around and figure to be leaders for us. And we’ve got guys like Chijioke (Onyenegecha), who began to come into his own at times last season, and Eric Bassey who had a terrific spring and a great summer for us. In addition, we have a number of players who we’ve seen a lot of — guys like Darien Williams and Jason Carter and Lewis Baker. There is plenty there to get you excited about this season, that’s for sure.

SS: Does all of the potential youth on this squad make the roles of Dvoracek, Alexander and Birdine that much more critical, both in practice and in games?

Venables: No doubt. We need those guys to play at a very high level. We need all of our older guys to do that and we are counting on that to happen. They have to provide the right kind of leadership and show the type of maturity and work ethic that sets the example and pushes the young guys. We feel all of our veterans are capable of playing at an All-American level and again, we believe they are primed and ready to do just that.

SS: Is there an area on the field that you can look at and say ‘that’s our strength or stabilizing factor?’

Venables: I don’t really know yet. The veterans we have are obviously guys we are counting on, which gives us a chance to focus on other areas. We need to be able to create the type of pressure that we were last year with Dan Cody and Jonathan Jackson. That’s as big as anything when it comes to having good coverage. We have to be sound and consistent, which are always key factors for a successful defense. When we weren’t good last year, it was usually due to a lack of consistency. We played good enough competition that if you don’t do all of the little things right, they can exposure you in a hurry. One key to consistency is making sure all of our young guys — and not just the freshmen — make some serious strides and develop during fall camp.

SS: Being defensive coordinator, you have a vested interest in every position on the field — but how do you like your linebacking corps going into the season?

Venables: I like this group very much. I like their overall attitude and their explosiveness. These are not guys you have to coach up on how to get excited to play the game. We’re not very deep at all, but the four scholarship guys we have back there are guys who you can win with. Obviously, we need to stay healthy and allow some of our talented freshmen develop over time. I think Clint (Ingram) is ready to have a monster year. Rufus was great at times last season. But he needs to bring a little more consistency to his performances. He needs to fine-tune his game and be the type of game-breaking player we know he can be. I’m really excited to see Zach Latimer coming into his own. He’s a hungry player who has been waiting his turn and he’s got a good understanding of what we’re trying to do. He’s going to be a real asset.

SS: Obviously, with the returning talent and the talent coming in, you feel this defense has a chance to compete and allow this team to succeed at the highest level?

Venables: Without question. If we are going to be any good this year, it’s going to have to start with defense. That’s the same at any level — you have to be able to play great defense, cause turnovers and be consistent. We need to be able to turn our guys loose and allow them to play fast and physical and be consistent. Again, that’s something we can’t emphasize enough. With the influx of the talent we have we are unbelievably excited about the potential of this group.