Venables using his blueprint
Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables has the blueprint. He’s learned over the years as an assistant coach what works and what doesn’t, and now he’s approaching the head coach spot with those same principles.
When it comes to preseason camp, it starts with physicality. You can’t be scared to be physical. You might lose a player or two, but it’s a mindset that cannot go away.
As OU has been practicing on the rugby fields since last Thursday, this is the real grind of camp season and figuring out everything.
“Emotion. Energy. Attention to detail. Physicality,” said Venables following Tuesday’s practice. “Guys understand you have to practice hard to play hard, and you’ve got to practice physical to play physical.
“You’ve got to be in a lot of competitive situations in order for you to feel comfortable on game day. So we’re trying to paint all the situations, and then over the next several days, it’s going to be critical that we continue to expose our guys to those situations.”
It’s definitely something you can tinker with based on who your team is, but it’s imperative to answer as many questions as you can during this period.
Because 40 percent of OU’s roster has never played a game for the Sooners, you can’t hold back.
“You’ve got to have the big picture in mind in everything that you do,” Venables said. “But you’ve got to get your work in and then you’ve got to stay committed to what that schedule looks like.”
“Having coached in national championships … there’s a blueprint, a formula that we try to stick by. We know what works. We need to continue to develop cohesion, chemistry and understanding.”
OU had a lot of players not practicing Tuesday, but the biggest blow is learning grad transfer linebacker T.D. Roof will miss the season with a bicep injury.
Defensive lineman Jalen Redmond, who missed part of last week with a slight concussion, was back at practice as was running back Jovantae Barnes.
Freshmen Jayden Rowe and Kobie McKinzie were suited up but practicing outside of the team, while offensive lineman Chris Murray was walking around in a boot. Venables stressed that Roof was the only major injury to this point.
Schmit making his move
Everybody knows what OU has in punter Michael Turk, so that’s not a question. But with Gabe Brkic no longer the kicker, it’s an open competition.
Although Tuesday wasn’t the best practice for the kickers, sounds like Zach Schmit is starting to assert himself in that department.
“He’s just been money in all the different situations,” Venables said. “He had a 62 (yard field goal) and he missed it by six inches in our scrimmage. Gavin Marshall missed it by a foot. Nailed it right down the middle, both of them. Came up short, but they were right on the money. Put them in a tough situation there. But tremendous consistency and improvement.”
Venables also praised Josh Plaster for his efforts so far. He wouldn’t go into detail about who the holder(s) will be for this season at this time.
Venables said last week how important the next 10 days were going to be in establishing a team identity and how tough the team is.
Part of that is watching guys start to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. The way you do that is through your mentality.
Venables was talking about defensive ends Ethan Downs and Reggie Grimes, but really it applies to all players at all positions.
“We're just teaching guys how to practice the right way,” Venables said. “When you go against a scout, you should dominate people. It's not just another walk-through or just going against the scouts. You should punish people. And on the flip side, the scouts should play so well that you make the defense or the offense go ‘We have to do the play again.’
“We call that a reload. If you're a varsity player, you don't ever want to hear ‘Reload.’ That means one of the varsity guys screwed up. The scout guy, he relishes that. He's like ‘Yeah, reload.’ You want to create a lot of competition on the field, even if it's against the scout.”
Nine guys for Bedenbaugh
It’s not quite a full two-deep, but it will definitely do right now for OU at the offensive line as Venables said he feels confident about nine guys playing winning football.
That’s the key. It’s not just bodies for depth, but guys who can actually play a huge role in getting the team where it needs to be. Five interior guys and four offensive tackles.
Venables said freshmen linemen Jacob Sexton and Jake Taylor are faring well, and a big difference has been Andrew Raym back to 100 percent after dealing with an ankle sprain and only practicing two days during the spring.
“We feel like we have a group of guys playing with plenty of confidence,” Venables said. “Still plenty of things we need to improve and show up every day with the right mindset and our best players have to show up every day and play at a high level. We feel, without question, better than where we were during the course of the spring.”
Venables said Wanya Morris and transfer Tyler Guyton are two tackles who have done a solid job through camp.
Backup QB still up for grabs
Venables wasn’t at a point where he felt comfortable to name a backup quarterback and a third-string quarterback. He said he’s going to let this week play out and then start to figure where everything stands.
When the media has been allowed to view practice, it has been Pitt transfer Davis Beville getting the majority of the No. 2 snaps and sometimes even giving Dillon Gabriel a breather and running the No. 1 reps.
Linebackers showing consistency
The loss of Roof is a blow for experience and production from the linebacker position, but Venables said he’s liked what he has seen from what he needs to be the heart and soul of the defense.
It’s down a couple of guys, but David Ugwoegbu, Danny Stutsman and DaShaun White have definitely been carrying the day through the first couple of weeks.
“But seeing those guys just grow and grow, getting better and better, more comfortable, and again as I’ve said many times, they’ve got to be the heart and soul of the defense,” Venables said. “So it’s been a group that I’ve been really pleased with from a consistency standpoint. Shown up every day, and then again, improvement from the start of camp to where we’re at right now.”
“I see improvement and that's the biggest thing that we're looking for right now — cleanliness, improvement, aggressiveness, assuredness in everything that we're doing. I think we're growing and maturing on both sides of the ball.” – Venables