Go look at the myriad photos and videos of Brent Venables leaving South Carolina and arriving in Oklahoma.
Sure looks like the smile of a man with his dream job.
The Sooners have a new head coach one week after their last skipper fled to Los Angeles. And for OU’s football program? It hired the perfect man to stabilize it.
The fear with coaching departures, whether it be the university or coach’s decision, is players are bound to transfer, commitments uncertain of their futures and assistant coaches looking elsewhere for work.
But with Venables, OU landed a coach that’s already one of its own and has established himself as one of the best defensive coaches in college football.
Go look at what Clemson’s done since Venables took the Tigers’ defensive coordinator job in 2012.
Clemson has two national titles, too many conference crowns to count and numerous NFL draft picks on the defensive side of the ball, including first-rounders Vic Beasley, Stephone Anthony, Shaq Lawson, Clelin Ferrell, Christian Walkins, Dexter Lawrence, Isaiah Simmons and A.J. Terrell.
Venables has strong recruiting ties to the Southeast, an area where OU absolutely needed its next head coach to be familiar with. His teams play with the physicality and discipline OU has lacked since he left campus a decade ago. And yes, this is his first head coaching job. But at the young age of 50, Venables is the adult in the room OU needs to turn things around.
He won’t be alone in getting OU back to where the program expects to be. There’s no official confirmation yet, but Venables would be wise to keep a few assistants like DeMarco Murray, Jamar Cain, Calvin Thibodeaux and Joe Jon Finley around. I also assume Cale Gundy is untouchable and will be there for his old colleague.
The OU football you’ve known over the last six years is gone. No matter your thoughts on Lincoln Riley, he kept the bar high and produced some of the best offenses to ever come through Norman. He left without much of a goodbye and I don’t think there’s a fan that should feel bad for not feeling good with how Riley left.
Under Venables, things will be different. It might not be pretty at first. It’s hard to sit here on Dec. 6, 2021, and say this hire assures the Sooners will be back on top of their conference again next season.
The Sooners can still be a good team with the right assistants around him and players bought in to a culture change, which is good for the short term.
In the long run, Venables provides OU with a coach ready to lead it heading into the Southeastern Conference and has all the mentorship to be the guy for years to come.
You might wonder why it took a week for OU to announce the Venables hire, and it’s a good question for athletics director Joe Castiglione. The diligence Castiglione showed should be seen as a good thing. The fans, alumni and even a few current players voiced their support for Venables. But as we’ve learned over the last few days, there were several other candidates OU explored.
Sometimes you just have to put all the best options in front of you to validate what you already knew.
And what OU knows is Venables was the right man at the right time for the job.
All that’s left is for Venables to go prove it.