Coming off the heels of the loss to West Virginia, Brent Venables didn’t waste anytime, going straight to the media members in attendance for questions.
He covered a wide range of topics from the loss to West Virginia, Bedlam, the importance of bowl games, the impact a poor season can have on recruiting, in addition to discussing players like Eric Gray and Danny Stutsman, and Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders.
It was nearly an hour of gold from the Head Coach, but here 10 nuggets that stood out from the Tuesday Media availability.
Development key in bowl eligibility
Nov 12, 2022; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Brent Venables argues a call with an official during the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Brent Venables: I thought was incredibly important. The number one thing is continuing to develop your team, practicing fundamentals. You spend a majority of your first several practices, depending on how much time you actually have to practice. You spend your first several practices with just working fundamentals. And then the good-on-good work that you do, you’re using primarily young players and even taking time to scrimmage those guys and continue to give them game-type reps.
Eric Gray doing Adrian Peterson things
Nov 12, 2022; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Eric Gray (0) runs the ball for a touchdown during the second quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Venables: Eric’s kind of a quiet leader. But man, his play is really loud. He’s having a monster season. I think this is the fastest to 1,100-plus yards since [autotag]Adrian Peterson[/autotag] in 2004. We’ve had a bunch of great backs here. So, that obviously says a lot. He leads the Big 12 in rushing per carry, and I think he’s seventh among Power Five players. So, I think sixth nationally with 6.7 yards per carry.
Still no explanation on the picked up flag
Nov 12, 2022; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; A young Oklahoma Sooners fan throws a ball back to a player before their game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Venables: Well, I know they came back and said they shouldn’t have. And it’s bang-bang. They thought that he wasn’t down yet. It’s not reviewable. So, it happens. We’re all human.
The threat that is Spencer Sanders
Oct 29, 2022; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Spencer Sanders (3) drops back to pass during the first quarter against the Kansas State Wildcats at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
Venables: Incredibly experienced. He’s a winner. He’s instinctive. He’s fast. He’s explosive. Got a quick release. You can tell he’s played. He’s got a lot of moxie. You can tell he’s played a lot of football. The team rallies behind him, plays off of his leadership and his energy. Sometimes the worst thing you can do is cover everybody because he can really run, and he’s a true dual-threat guy. They’ve got designed quarterback runs for him. They do a good job of moving the launch point. But he makes all the throws. Really excellent player.
On Danny Stutsman's development
Oct. 29, 2022; Ames, Iowa, USA; Oklahoma linebacker Danny Stutsman (28) intercepts a pass in the fourth quarter against Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bryon Houlgrave/Des Moines Register-USA TODAY Sports
Venables: Danny leads the Big 12 in tackles per game. So, that’s pretty good, right? I know some people think he stinks, but I’m pretty proud of him. He’s gotten better. And like all growth patterns for young players, there’s gonna be some ebbs and flows. But I’m telling you, he’s on his way to being an outstanding player.
On the young linebackers
Sep 17, 2022; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers running back Gabe Ervin Jr. (22) gets tackled by Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Jaren Kanak (7) during the third quarter at Memorial Stadium. Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports
Venables: I like what I’m seeing from the young guys that are behind them. Yes. So, the guys, (Justin) Harrington is working at that Cheetah as well, and then we’ve got (Jaren) Kanak working in there at Mike, and Kobie (McKinzie). Kobie’s been working a little more scout team, but Kobie has really made improvements fundamentally. Has leaned his body up. He’s playing quicker and faster, and he’s got great instincts. And he’s got concrete in his helmet, really a striker I like the versatility that a guy like Kanak [has]. I think he can play all three. I think Kip Lewis he’s really coming. I’m not sure how ready he is for game reps yet, just based on how practice is going. And again, he’s got to get more details down and spend a little more time. It’s hard as a freshman. Time management’s an issue. So, he’s in a very structured, demanding schedule from a class standpoint, tutorials and things of that [nature], weights. It’s hard to find windows of where you can come in and watch film. And if you did, I think he could close that gap just a little bit more just to be a little bit more detailed.
Recruiting through a down season
Oct 8, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Brent Venables walks in a line with his players before the game against the Texas Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Venables: And you have a long history, not a winning season here and a winning season there. I’m talking about a long history of success. And they’re in the recruiting game on their side of it, they’re trying to know people and what’s real and what isn’t as well. And so you come from a place of genuineness and authenticity, I think people see that when you’re being real and you’re being honest, and it’s relationship driven.
So, I think it starts with, again, like, say we had a top-notch quarterback committed. Like, you can go anywhere in the country, and schools are still coming after him really hard. Excellent schools that are in those big games that you’re talking about are having those successful seasons. But somehow, someway, he continues to stay loyal to you because he sees a vision, he sees a track record, he has dreams to have this amazing opportunity at your school. He’s developed these relationships that mean something to him.
And, you know, so I think some of those things through all the noise and what can be the negativity. And listen, if I’m on the other side of it, man, I’m using all that, too. If I’m recruiting against, that’s what I’d be saying. I’d be saying are you sure? So yeah, it just comes with it. You don’t like it, do something else. I’m just saying as a recruiter. I’m talking about myself. But I don’t mind it. I expect it. My job is to protect it and have a voice of reason. And if, at some point, somebody wants to move on, that’s okay, too. There’s plenty of guys. There’s a whole long line of people all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico that would love to have for an opportunity to come here.
Needs in the Transfer Portal
Oct 15, 2022; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Jovantae Barnes (2) celebrates with Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) and Oklahoma Sooners offensive lineman Andrew Raym (73) after scoring a touchdown during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Venables: No. I mean, again, you know, I think our roster would probably need a couple of spots. We’ll just see how everything goes. But I just would say if you just look back at it, we don’t need a quarterback. Okay. That’s how I feel…
…You know, people matter, and people always make the place. And so finding the right kind of people that are about all the right stuff. They’re good enough. Bare minimum, it starts with that. And then making sure that, again, they’re about the right stuff and the values align. Again, they value education, value structure and accountability, and the discipline and want to be told the truth and want to have to work for their opportunity. They’re not entitled to anything.
On improving as a head coach
AMES, IA – OCTOBER 29: Head coach Brent Venables of the Oklahoma Sooners coaches from the sidelines in the second half of play against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium on October 29, 2022 in Ames, Iowa. The Oklahoma Sooners won 27-13 over the Iowa State Cyclones. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
Venables: And so there’s this natural maturation for everybody. You know, if you’re honest with yourself, if you have those three A’s. I’m always talking about the create change and improvement, awareness and accountability, and action. And I’ve always tried to learn from others and learn from myself through experiences, both good and bad. And the times that I’ve been at my best, just, personally speaking, is through the toughest moments, whether it’s death in the family, losing a player, losing a game, and the way we did not represent ourselves the right way.
Being better on money downs
Nov 12, 2022; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) throws a pass during the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Venables: Just, again, being more precise, more detailed, everyone being on the same page. To me, that’s an aberration for what they’ve been. Just looking at their body of work on the season, I think we were high 40s, 41%. Okay, certainly, that’s what it is now. Yeah, we’re 42%. Okay, so that’s after having been 1-of-13. So, it went down. So, they’ve been really pretty dang good on the year, and so I expect them to come back, refocus and have a better outing, learn from some of the things that we need to do better, and coaching and playing. It’s not just players. It’s all of it. And so that’s what I expect. But it’s gonna be a great challenge, yeah, because again, you’re talking a unit that’s one of the best in the country in situational football.”
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