'I love where he's at': OU's Brent Venables expects big things from Dasan McCullough

NORMAN — Brent Venables doesn't want there to be any confusion.
When OU takes to the field this upcoming season, its roster will include numerous newcomers who transferred from big-name programs. Michigan. Texas. Tennessee. Notre Dame.
But don't forget about Dasan McCullough. The sophomore linebacker didn't play on the biggest stage at Indiana last season, but he's expected be one of OU's most impactful transfers.
"Some people say, 'He’s coming from Indiana, so he certainly must not be any good,'" Venables said. "Well then you obviously haven’t done your research. You have no idea what his recruitment was all about. He could’ve gone anywhere in the country."
Venables is right.
ESPN ranked McCullough as a four-star prospect and the No. 43 player in the 2022 recruiting class. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound linebacker held offers from powerhouse programs such as Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia.
That list also included Clemson, where Venables served as the team's defensive coordinator/linebackers coach from 2012-21.
McCullough ultimately ended up at Indiana, where his father had just been hired as a running backs coach. He became the highest-ranked recruit in program history, but he never burned any bridges with Venables.
Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Dasan McCullough speaks to media during a press conference in Norman, Okla., Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023.
“He was actually the only coach that I told coming out of high school that I wasn’t coming to his school,” McCullough said. “That’s the amount of respect that I had for Coach Venables coming out of high school. There were really no hard feelings. He completely understood everything.”
McCullough played well in his lone season with the Hoosiers. He racked up 49 tackles (6.5 for loss) and four sacks in 12 games.
And after entering the transfer portal on Dec. 5, the first call he received was from Venables.
"When I entered the portal, it was kind of like we picked up where we left off at," McCullough said. "It was a good experience."
McCullough committed to OU on Dec. 12. He'll now get to play for Venables, whose previous success with linebackers is well documented.
One example is Isaiah Simmons, a former Clemson linebacker whose build is similar to McCullough. After being named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2019, Simmons got selected No. 8 overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2020 NFL Draft.
"He's coached linebackers just like me, which is really the most intriguing part about Coach Venables," McCullough said. "Having a coach who's used to players like that is going to be huge for my development."
McCullough will get every opportunity to develop with the Sooners.
A lack of linebacker depth proved to be OU's biggest weakness last season. The team's starting linebacker trio of Danny Stutsman, DaShaun White and David Ugwoegbu played more than 900 snaps apiece out of necessity.
But with White and Ugwoegbu no longer in the mix, McCullough figures to start alongside Stutsman and Jaren Kanak.
"He's looked good," Venables said. "Dasan's got a tremendous skill set. He's got great length, instincts, toughness. ... He’s made tremendous improvement in the weight room with his size and his strength and his power. I love where he's at."
McCullough's unique combination of size, speed and instincts makes him an ideal candidate for OU's cheetah position.
The hybrid position requires a player to be capable of dropping back into coverage and stopping the run. It's a complex role, but McCullough is up for the challenge.
Regardless of where McCullough lines up on the field, Venables is expecting big things from the Indiana transfer.
"To me, wherever he is this year, a year from now, he's going to be in an even more enhanced role," Venables said. "He's made us better at linebacker."

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