Venables looks to take Oklahoma’s program ‘from good to great’ | SehndeWeb

New Oklahoma coach Brent Venables respects what the Sooners have accomplished in recent years, but he thinks they can be even better.

Lincoln Riley went 55-10 in five seasons before leaving to become head coach of Southern California. Quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray won Heisman trophies before becoming the NFL’s first draft picks.

But Riley’s teams have lost three times in the college football playoff semifinals and never won a national title. Venables used spring practice to lay the groundwork for a program he believes can break through.

“We’re trying to take this program from good to great,” he said. “It’s a big step. It takes a lot of intention and a lot of purpose to achieve this.

Venables freely shares nuggets of wisdom that show how he plans to get there. Take the way he encourages players to challenge themselves: “I tell players that you have to develop an intimate relationship with failure to be your best,” he said. “You can’t just love it when it’s good, it’s easy and it’s comfortable. This is not where the real growth occurs. You have to like it all. »

Then there’s the example he gave of how one of his most spirited players could hone his leadership skills: “I said, ‘Dude, instead of calling him, call- the “,” Venables said. “Call a man. Try that and see if you get better results.

Venables has a lot to show for his approach – he’s been on the staff of teams that have won three national titles and appeared in eight national championship games. Now the former Clemson defensive coordinator is keeping him going as he advances into his first head coaching gig.

Longtime Sooners fans remember Venables’ enthusiasm from his previous run in Oklahoma, when he helped the program win the 2000 national title. He served on the staff under Bob Stoops as a co-defensive coordinator from 1999 to 2003 and was defensive coordinator from 2004 to 2011.

He still has that fire. He walks around practice with a microphone and occasionally participates in practice sessions. He’s all over the details – in attack too.

“It’s just unique,” quarterback Dillon Gabriel said. “He demands a lot, but man, he loves us even harder. So whenever you have that, you can demand a lot from all the guys.

Todd Bates, an Oklahoma defensive assistant who has followed Venables from Clemson, said the intensity never lets up.

“He’ll never ask you to do something he won’t do,” Bates said. “I saw that for five years at Clemson. To have the ability to be on his side of the ball and practice with him and see how intense it is – it’s like life or death every game for him.

Venables said Oklahoma is on the right track after strong spring practice.

“It’s just a little more,” he said. “We are talking about 212 degrees. When water boils, that’s how you move a locomotive. At 211, this thing is totally immobile. You’re not going anywhere. It just needs a degree more, a little more care. Work a little more, love a little more, react a little more – just a little more. It makes a difference. If everyone has this mindset, we will all get where we want to go.

He thinks it all starts with the example he sets. This filters into everything, including the types of players he recruits.

“I can promise you I’m going to be the first to go and not take it,” he said. “I am looking for doers. So that’s it. I want to sell that to rookies and their families and to our own players and their families. They notice it. They are human. They pay attention. And passion comes from love.

From there, Venables hopes the players will put in the work to turn their potential into production.

“We talk about it all the time – doing the hard, dirty work in the dark,” Venables said. “When the stands are empty, that’s when we can separate from our opponent. There has to be real commitment and the guys have to like getting dirty. I’m hopeful that will happen.

In exchange for all these efforts, Venables wants the Norman crowds to share his passion. Although Oklahoma’s fanbase is loyal, he thinks Memorial Stadium could be louder and provide better homefield advantage.

“There’s a reason we’ve won so much here at home – one of the best home records in college football in the last 20 years,” he said. “The crowd played a big part in that. But we are trying to move to another level.

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

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