Venables talks buy in from athletes at OU Caravan Spot

OU Football head coach Brent Venables talks with a couple of people during the OU Caravan event held at Stephens County Fairgrounds this past Thursday evening.

Editor’s Note: This is the first of several articles from the OU Caravan event that took place in Duncan on May 12. Future articles will appear in later editions of The Duncan Banner.

 

In-coming Oklahoma head football coach Brent Venables watched the Sooners prepare for the Alamo Bowl last December, and one thing became abundantly clear. He’d have to push.

Push for toughness.

Push for focus on detail

And push for a new overarching culture.

The question he had was: How much pushback will I get?

A lot, he assumed.

But that hasn’t been the case. There’s been little pushback to the culture change he’s orchestrated in Norman, he told a crowd of about 200 Thursday at the OU Coaches Caravan at the Stephens County Fairgrounds.

Venables, who was hired as Oklahoma’s 23rd head football coach in December, was keynote speaker on a night that also featured OU head men’s basketball coach Porter Moser and OU head women’s basketball coach Jennie Baranczyk.

Sooners play-by-play broadcaster Toby Rowland emceed the event.

Venables inherited a program that had become rich in trophies by grit, at least compared to the big-wigs of college football, mainly those in the soon-to-be Sooners’ landing spot of the SEC.

Score points? You ‘betcha.

Win a slew of conference titles? No doubt.

Heisman trophies? Check.

And beat the Alabamas and Georgias in the College Football Playoffs… whoa, Boomer and Sooner, hold the Schooner right there.

Oklahoma was a punching bag for Alabama and LSU in the Sooners’ last two playoff appearances, and OU started to slip in conference, losing to Baylor and OSU, before Riley exited Left Coast.

As Venables watched the Sooners’ bowl preparation in December, “I saw too much casualness, if you will,” he told a Caravan crowd in Amarillo on Tuesday. “Too much on nonchalantness when I came in December to watch the team prepare for the bowl game.”

But, “the thing I’ve been most impressed with since they came back (from Christmas break) in January is the competitiveness of these guys. I really anticipated a lot of pushback. We reset the standard and then we continued to raise the standard, because my philosophy is, ‘Raise the standards and lose the losers. Lower the standards and lose the winners.’

I’ve been amazed at the buy-in, the commitment. It’s been really good. We have a long way to go to improve, and we have a lot to learn and get better at – and we will because the will is there. The willingness to work, the willingness to commit and invest is there.”

 

Venables: The Second Coming

Venables is no stranger to culture changes. He’s helped orchestrate them at Kansas State, Oklahoma and Clemson. He was part of the reclamation project that saw Kansas State go from perennial doormat to the top-ranked team in the nation.

And then he came to Oklahoma in 1999. The Sooners were historically bad. In stepped new head coach Bob Stoops and a new staff that included Venables.

You had all of these highly recruited players who hadn’t gone to a bowl game in five years,” Venables said. And they pushed back when the new coaching staff started to change the culture.

It was miserable to come to work,” Venables said. “It was not fun. Coach Stoops had to talk us off the cliff every day. I was ready to jump off the back of Memorial Stadium. I’d left a culture at Kansas State where we were No. 1 in the country at the time. It was a very healthy environment.

So, when we came here, we had to reset a lot. There was a lot of pruning that took place. But two short years later, BINGO – No. 7. The seventh national title.”

Then, in 2012, Venables left Oklahoma to be the defensive coordinator at Clemson. The Tigers had just completed their first 10-plus win season in 20 years.

They were good on offense and not very good on defense,” Venables said. “The culture wasn’t very good on defense, so it wasn’t a lot fun for me. It was the same thing: ‘Coach is too hard on us. He wants us to tackle in practice, and we don’t do that.’ It was a very uncomfortable first six or seven months for me because I had to strip it to the studs; I had to start over. Some people may like that, but I don’t. I like excellence right now. It can’t happen fast enough for me. But two short years later, Clemson was No. 1 in 14 categories on defense.”

Venables believes the Sooners have the right frame of mind for a turnaround.

Their attitude and mindset is right, and that’s where it all starts,” he said. “Attitude and mindset affect the hear; it affects your actions; it affects everything. Our guys think in the right way.”

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