- The University of Oklahoma is reportedly set to finalize a deal with Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables to become the Sooners’ new head football coach.
- Venables would replace Lincoln Riley, who left to take the vacant job at USC last week.
- Venables is a former OU assistant who is currently the highest paid assistant in college football making $2.5 million a year.
Arguably the biggest story of the past week in college football was Lincoln Riley leaving Oklahoma to become the new head coach at USC. Riley became the first Sooners’ head coach to leave for another college coaching opportunity since 1946 and it left the Oklahoma program in disarray. Almost immediately, several of the top recruits that had been planning to attend OU changed their plans to head west and join Riley at USC. Additionally, several current OU players including quarterback Spencer Rattler have entered the ‘transfer portal’ in the wake of Riley’s departure.
Improbably, the Sooners might be about to get the last laugh. A number of reports are circulating that school officials headed to Clemson, South Carolina on Sunday to finalize a deal with Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables to become the next head football coach at Oklahoma. Venables has presided over Clemson’s defense during the Dabo Swinney era and has made them among the nastiest in college football. Currently, the tigers rank 9th in total defense and second in scoring defense despite a slew of injuries in something of a ‘down year’ for the program. Of course, being able to consider a 9-3 season a ‘down year’ is a problem many programs–including Oklahoma–would like to have. The Clemson defense has sent eight players to the first round of the NFL Draft during Venables’ run with cornerback Andrew Booth likely to make it nine this year.
The local media in South Carolina is suggesting the Venables hire is a done deal. He reportedly met with his players today to tell them he’s headed to OU:
Venables spent 13 years as a defensive coordinator and associate head coach under Bob Stoops at Oklahoma before coming to Tiger Town. He was co-defensive coordinator on the 2000 national championship team at Oklahoma and with a couple more national championships at Clemson under his belt he’s got all the credentials imaginable. During his decade at Clemson, Venables has become the highest paid assistant in college football pulling down a cool $2.5 million per season. You can expect that he’ll be making considerably more than that as the Sooners’ head coach.
This isn’t the first time that Venables has been targeted for a head coaching vacancy. He was approached by his alma mater, Kansas State when Bill Snyder retired. He turned down the head coaching job at Auburn earlier this year after which he was rewarded with the $2.5 million per contract extension. While these are the big names that have come calling for Venables’ services he’s turned down any number of head coaching offers during his time at Clemson. Being consistently ranked at the top of most significant statistical categories will do that.
The difference this time is Venables’ ties to Oklahoma and his relationship with Bob Stoops. Stoops is serving as the Sooners’ interim coach for the rest of the season. No doubt that Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione has made Stoops the point man in the effort to recruit Venables as the program’s next head coach. Stoops’ comment when named interim head coach rings a bit prophetic here:
“First and foremost, I’m a program guy and whatever I can do to help OU and to support the players, of course I’m glad to do i. I’ll do everything I can to help them finish the season in a strong and successful way and I look forward to that.”
Venables even has someone in mind to be his offensive coordinator–that would be Ole Miss’ Jeff Lebby who has yet to comment on the story or commit to accepting the gig should OU hire their top candidate. Making the Oklahoma opportunity all the more attractive is the fact that this is in no way a ‘rebuilding project’. The Sooners have won 10 or more games in 18 of the last 22 seasons and went 10-2 this year. They’ve been to bowl games in 23 straight seasons including 2021 where they’ll face Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. Even with some defections after Lincoln Riley’s departure this is a team that is loaded with talent and a program with all the resources necessary to win. The current incarnation of the Sooners has a very potent offense ranking tenth in points scored per game but a somewhat suspect defense that is ranked in the low 50s in points against per game. That makes the Venables hire all the better–if he can make the defense as strong as the offense the Sooners could dominate the next decade the way that Clemson did the previous.