The Oklahoma Sooners have a chance to finish the season with double-digit wins in Brent Venables’ second season in Norman.
After going 6-7 in 2022, the idea in 2023 was simply to get better. And they’ve done that across the board. The offense is playing at a higher level, but, more importantly, the defense has improved.
As we near the conclusion of the 2023 season, the coaching carousel has already begun across the college football landscape. Several Power Five jobs have opened up, which means coach movement will unfold over the next few weeks.
As the season winds down, USA TODAY Sports’ Tom Schad broke down seven assistants he believes deserve a pay raise. Either because they had a strong season or simply because their current program would be wise to do what they need to to keep the assistant.
Among Schad’s seven assistants who deserve a raise is Oklahoma Sooners co-defensive coordinator – pass defense, cornerbacks and nickelbacks coach Jay Valai.
Oklahoma is tied for the FBS lead with 17 interceptions, including two last weekend against West Virginia and two that have been returned for touchdowns. It’s a credit to the Sooners’ entire defensive staff but also the impact of Valai, who has been highly sought-after in recent years and looks poised to take another step. The 36-year-old spent one year in the NFL, as a quality control coach with the Kansas City Chiefs, and has since coached defensive backs at some of the nation’s premier football programs, including stints at Alabama and Texas before arriving at Oklahoma in 2022. – Schad, USA TODAY Sports
Valai is making $700,000 a year.
The Oklahoma Sooners secondary has been significantly better in 2022 than it was a year ago. The unit has improved from 119th in the nation in pass defense to 90th. A year ago, the Sooners were 10th in the nation in interceptions per game. This year, they’re tied for first. They have done this while dealing with injuries at cornerback and safety throughout the season.
As Schad mentions, it’s been a total team improvement, but the secondary has made a big jump in understanding of the defense to execution. At the same time, you can’t deny the effect Valai has had on the cornerbacks and the pass defense.
Valai was a strong hire shortly after Brent Venables’ arrival, and two years in, it’s paying dividends. It may be time for the Sooners to pay Valai.