Oklahoma hopes to regain toughness as Sooners program ushers in a new era under Brent Venables

Oklahoma begins a new era this week as Brent Venables opens his inaugural spring camp as a head coach. The Sooners were forced to conduct their first external coaching search since 1998 after Lincoln Riley shockingly left for USC, leaving Venables as the new man tasked with leading the program to contention. 

Riley set a high bar at Oklahoma, posting a 55-10 record in five seasons and failing to win 10 games only during a pandemic-shortened 2020 season. However, Venables has deep ties to Oklahoma after co-coordinating the defense on Stoops’ national championship team in 2000 and a long history of success in his own right. After years of turning down some prominent head-coaching opportunities, guiding the Sooners turned out to be the perfect fit. 

Between Oklahoma and Clemson, Venables has been part of 12 straight teams that won at least 10 games, winning 13 conference championships and three national championships in 23 years between the two locales. Now, Venables is tasked with bringing mojo back to Norman after a disappointing 2021 campaign and the emotions of Riley’s departure. 

Here’s what to watch as Venables begins his first spring practice sessions as Oklahoma coach. 

Offseason changes

For the first time since 1947, an Oklahoma coach left Norman for another college football job. The Sooners, however, nabbed a no-brainer replacement. Venables becomes the fourth straight hire in Norman without prior head-coaching experience, but the last two — Riley and Bob Stoops — elevated Oklahoma back to national title contention. 

Four assistants stayed on staff during the regime change, including prized offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. Additionally, the Sooners nabbed rising star and former OU player Jeff Lebby at offensive…

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