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Brent Venables is Confident L'Damian Washington Will Thrive in New Role at Oklahoma

After spending the spring and summer on staff with the Sooners, Brent Venables believes L'Damian Washington will be able to handle his new responsibilities.

L’Damian Washington is now the guy in Oklahoma’s wide receiver room.

Brent Venables made that abundantly clear in his first press conference since Cale Gundy resigned from the program on Sunday night.

“I couldn’t be more excited about L’Damian Washington and the opportunity that he has with these guys this season,” Venables said on Wednesday. “He’s already had incredible relationships built with these guys and trust and really a deep understanding of who they are as young men, certainly their skill sets and their strengths and weaknesses. He’s incredibly bright and smart and articulate.

“He’s got deep trust with these guys. When I announced to the team that he would be on an interim basis, whoever long that is, that he would be stepping in to help us out there and be the receivers coach, the players were excited for him and this opportunity.”

At some point, Venables will take a look at the position, but this close to the season the OU head coach didn’t want to cause any extra distractions.

“From a timing standpoint, this is a very unique situation,” Venables said. “It’s not a good time for any coach to be shopping themselves around. This will be a position that’s highly sought after. I’ve had plenty of people reach out, but I just want to make sure, whatever we do, it’s what’s best for the players. Right now, I know that Coach Washington will fill that role in a great way.”

So now Washington will have the rest of the season as an audition for the role.

And while it is a major change on the staff, Venables said he believes Washington is more than ready to make the jump from offensive analyst to position coach for the Sooners this year — a path Venables himself walked early in his career.

“I’m really excited to see (him), I think he’ll really blossom right here in this role,” he said. “When I got hired at K-State full time, Bill Snyder hired me as an interim coach. I couldn’t be happier for that opportunity. I made $33,000 plus some change and I was head over heels excited.

“I never looked over my shoulder once. And that’s my expectation of Coach Washington. He’ll do an amazing job.”

A former standout receiver himself at Missouri, Washington brings plenty of credibility from his playing career.

Washington hauled in 100 catches for 1,735 yards and 15 touchdowns before stints in the NFL, the Canadian Football League, the Alliance of American Football and the XFL.

The former Missouri wide receiver then joined his alma mater to serve as the director of player development under Eli Drinkwitz before serving as the wide receivers coach at Southern University last year.

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Washington’s stint back at Missouri connected him with current OU tight end coach Joe Jon Finley, which helped put Washington on Venables’ radar as the new head coach assembled his staff this winter.

“Coach Finley had worked with him at Missouri, and Coach (Jeff) Lebby had known him as well,” Venables said. “… I got a chance to visit with him. The first five minutes you visit with him, you go, ‘That guy’s the real deal.’ He’s got an amazing testimony, very real, he’s very honest, high energy, sharp, articulate and easy with the players. Very easy.

“But he’s honest with them. Not a buddy. He’s honest with them. He’s just got a lot of natural skill and ability.”

There’s been no time to waste, as the season will be here in a few short weeks. Washington has stepped straight in to not only instruct the current crop of wide receivers, but to help keep OU’s future play makers intact.

Class of 2023 commit Jaquaize Pettaway reaffirmed his commitment to the Sooners on Twitter Wednesday night, as the staff moved quickly to ease any potential concerns from the staffing change.

Should Washington need any extra assistance, former Texas Tech head coach and current OU analyst Matt Wells is one of a few staff members who can lend his experience to the situation.

“Matt will kind of be his assistant,” Venables said. “And that way — Nick Basquine is here in the program, also in an off-the-field role. So he'll do a great job as well to help guide and lead, just like I do.

“… But Matt will help in all the ways that he's allowed to.”

Making a coaching change after the start of fall camp is far from an ideal scenario, but Venables believes the Sooners are equipped to ease the transition and overcome the adversity ahead of a crucial 2022 campaign.

“He’s been the assistant that can’t coach, that can’t watch film,” Venables said. “But he’s been paying attention for eight months. He’s done it before.

“It’s not his first rodeo. He’s played the game for a very long time.”

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