Venables looks to take Oklahoma program ‘from good to great’

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) New Oklahoma coach Brent Venables respects what the Sooners have accomplished in recent years, but he believes they can be even better.

Lincoln Riley compiled a 55-10 record in five seasons before leaving to become head coach at Southern California. Quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray won Heisman trophies before becoming No. 1 overall picks in the NFL draft.

But Riley’s teams lost three times in the College Football Playoff semifinals and never won a national title. Venables has used spring practice to lay the foundation for a program he believes can break through.

”We’re trying to take this program from good to great,” he said. ”That’s a big step. It takes a lot of intention and a lot of purpose to get that.”

Venables freely shares nuggets of wisdom that show how he plans to get there. Take the way he encourages players to embrace challenges: ”I tell the players you have to grow an intimate relationship with failure to be your best,” he said. ”You can’t just love it when it’s good and it’s easy and it’s comfortable. That’s not where the real growth happens. You’ve got to love all of it.”

Then, there’s the example he offered while explaining how one of his more animated players could tweak his leadership skills: ”I said, `Man, instead of calling him out, call him up,”’ Venables said. ”Call a man up. Try that and see if you get better results.”’

Venables has much to show for his approach – he’s been on staff for teams that have won three national titles and appeared in eight national championship games. Now, the former Clemson defensive coordinator is maintaining it as he steps forward in his first head coaching gig.

Longtime Sooners fans remember Venables’ enthusiasm from his previous run at Oklahoma, when he helped the program win the 2000 national title. He was on the staff under…

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