OU football coach Brent Venables talks Bedlam future, Danny Stutsman at Big 12 Media Days

ARLINGTON, Texas — OU coach Brent Venables’ press conference Thursday at Big 12 Football Media Days was the last among the league’s 14 coaches. Venables is hoping for drastic improvement in his second season after the Sooners went 6-7 last season, the program’s first losing record since 1998. “We went 6-7 last year and fell well below our expectations and our standards,” Venables said. “But man, we learned a lot.” As the Sooners prepare for their final season in the Big 12 before moving to the SEC, Venables is hoping for plenty of improvement — particularly defensively. OU opens the season Sept. 2 at home against Arkansas State. “Incredibly excited about this season and our team,” Venables said. Here are four takeaways from Venables’ press conference: More: Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy trying to prove 'things don't fix themselves' ‘Winners respond’ Brent Venables said there was plenty to be learned — at every level — from the struggles of his first season “Really expect to come back this year and learn from those mistakes,” Venables said. “It teaches you a lot. “Winners respond. Winners come back a better version of themselves, winners go right back at it.” Venables took the blame for OU’s struggles last season, when the Sooners were No. 122 of 131 nationally in total defense, No. 119 in passing yards allowed and No. 106 in rush defense. “Heavy is the crown,” Venables said. “But I embrace that. I always put a lot on myself.” The defensive struggles in particular irked Venables. “We haven’t been good on defense for a long time,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do but I’ve got a lot of faith in both our players and our staff.” Venables was asked if he remembered what Bob Stoops did in his second season as the Sooners’ coach. “I remember that year and what it was like,” Venables said. Of course he does. After going 7-5 in 1999, the Sooners rolled through the 2000 season undefeated — with Venables and Mike Stoops as co-defensive coordinators — and won the program’s seventh and most recent national title. It seems unlikely these Sooners will be able to construct a similar turn around, but the 2000 season was plenty improbable as well. More: Tramel: Big 12 leaders trust Commissioner Brett Yormark, even if they don't agree The Bedlam question Wednesday, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was asked repeatedly about the impending end of the Bedlam series. And each time, Gundy said the decision to end the series rested with the Sooners after their move to the SEC. It wasn’t as big of a topic Thursday, but it still lingered. “Look, I’m not in control of whether or not we play Oklahoma State,” Venables said. “I love college football. I love the traditions. … Whether or not we play them in the future, nobody’s asking me what I think. “We’re going to play the schedule that they put in front of us.” The game seems unlikely to come back at least in the short-term, as the Cowboys’ non-conference slots are largely accounted for. The Sooners have more openings in the schedule — especially if the SEC sticks to playing eight conference games a season — but OU has plenty of non-conference games set as well. More: Which Big 12 football matchup ranks No. 1 among new-look conference's 105 games in 2023? Praising the Big 12 Brent Venables was Kansas State’s linebackers coach when the Wildcats hosted the first-ever Big 12 game, against Texas Tech on Aug. 31, 1996. “Zebbie Lethridge and Byron Hanspard and the amazing Spike Dykes,” Venables said, recalling the prominent names on that Texas Tech team Venables’ Wildcats beat 21-14. “All of my opportunities in my life that as I’ve had as a coach… all come from the Big 12.” This year he’ll be part of OU’s last in the league when the Sooners host TCU at 11 a.m. Nov. 24. Venables heaped compliments at the Big 12 as the Sooners prepare for their swan song in the conference. “There’s no doubt that the best is yet to come for this conference,” Venables said. Not that it was expected that Venables would throw verbal grenades at the Big 12, but the effusiveness of his praise was a bit unexpected. More: Tramel's ScissorTales: Would SEC consider NFL-style scheduling after OU football arrives? Danny Stutsman ‘in a different place’ One of the Sooners’ player representatives Thursday was linebacker Danny Stutsman, whose 126 tackles led the Big 12 last season. But Venables, Stutsman and everyone else in the program expects more from the junior linebacker in 2023 as he’s expected to be a starter for the second consecutive season. “Danny, he’d be the first one to admit that 17 months ago, he wasn’t capable of leading,” Venables said. “I love the maturation that’s taken place with him off the field as much as on the field. “He’s put the team and the expectations on his back. … We’re in a different place (and) he certainly is at this point in time to where he was a year ago. “Really excited to see Danny and where he’s at this year.” More: For Big 12 newcomer UCF, facing OU football & Dillon Gabriel 'circled up' on schedule

Players mentioned in this article

Byron Hanspard

Danny Stutsman

Latest Player Notes

How Wisconsin athletes are benefiting from a unique NIL deal with Madison's Exact Sciences

Feb 17, 2024MJ Hammill entered what can be a scary time of an athlete’s life in mid-December.She went into the volleyball ...

Mike Griffith: Texas is Georgia's primary focus this offseason

February 16, 2024The Georgia Bulldogs face three SEC contenders on the road next season in Alabama, Texas and Ole Miss. According ...

Navigating a season that could see Texas play Georgia more than once

February 17, 2024The Texas Longhorns and Georgia Bulldogs will play in Austin on Oct. 19. It may not be the only time they ...

After some key departures from the team, Dykes got busy in the portal this offseason.

5:11 PM on Feb 16, 2024Biggest unanswered question: Who will emerge as the clear WR1?Before last season, Williams was the ...

How Louisville football coach Jeff Brohm balances transfer portal, high school recruiting

Louisville Courier JournalCollege football used to buzz on the first Wednesday in February, but Louisville football's office ...

Bob Asmussen | Illinois defense counting on linebackers to plug the gaps

College Football Reporter/ColumnistCHAMPAIGN — A new linebacker coach is in place at Illinois, and Archie McDaniel said he ...

Where Alabama’s quarterback group stands before spring practice

Alabama football’s offense is going to look different this season. Kalen DeBoer has replaced the retired Nick Saban as head ...

Why did AJ McCarron return to the St. Louis Battlehawks?

When AJ McCarron joined the resurrected XFL last year, the former Alabama All-American hadn’t played since suffering a knee ...

Colorado football self-reported 11 minor NCAA violations from Deion Sanders’ first year with Buffs

1/26/2024The Colorado football program has self-reported 11 minor NCAA violations since the hiring of head coach Deion Sanders ...

What Steve Young said about today’s NFL quarterbacks

By Jackson Payne Steve Young may have enjoyed a Hall of Fame career in the NFL, but that doesn’t stop him from feeling just ...
See More Player Notes