NORMAN — The Brent Venables era has arrived at Oklahoma, and the new head coach is already ushering stark changes from his predecessor.
Promising to return a physical brand of football and a “punishing” defense, the on the field mentality of the team is not all that Venables is looking to chance.
On the recruiting trail, the Sooners will likely see a shift as well.
Pivoting from the flashy, social media influencer-style of recruiting Lincoln Riley employed, Venables is going to treat his program at Oklahoma like a Rolls Royce.
“You don't see Rolls Royce commercials ever, m” Venables said at his introductory press conference on Monday afternoon. “You don't see them, do you? Commercials? And I'm not saying this in an egotistical way but Oklahoma and its rich history, tradition, success, takes a back seat to nobody. So we shouldn't have to go across the country to the mega-camps where there's 600 kids and 30 colleges.”
Instead, Venables said the Sooners are going to be very intentional with both their evaluations and the number of offers the coaching staff wants to send out to recruits, a style of recruiting almost unique to Clemson on the highest levels of college football these days.
“It's people first. I believe that wholeheartedly, in finding the people,” Venables said. “That's why, instead of speeding everything up, you need to slow it down…. You know, these — I don’t even know, is it sophomores if they're 2024? Like, they're mad if they don't get an offer, you know? And I'm like…
“What’s so wrong with starting like a full year of varsity, you know? Going on your first date, learn how to shave. Maybe get a driver’s license before you get a $120,000 scholarship. You’re mad we don’t offer you when you’re 14-years-old and you don’t know anything about them. There’s no track record. And we’re going to value our offer.”
Of course, Venables said, the Sooners aren’t going to continually pass on recruiting talented individuals, but searching beyond what shows up on tape will also be important to Venables to ensure the people he brings into the program share his ideals of hard work and attention to detail.
“(I want to) find people first,” Venables said. “Yeah, they’ve got to be talented, that goes without saying, they’ve got to be a great player, but we’re going to look for people first because I think that’s what sustains.
“There’ll be some tough moments when you go to college. It’s hard, especially when you’re young and immature. So I think it’s important that you find people that got the right stuff. And whatever that is, again our job as a staff is having to ability to identify that.”
Venables said he understands the yearning from underclassmen in high school to get attention from the top programs, and that while the Sooners will still be active recruiters, he wants his staff to hold back on issuing tangible offers until they’ve been able to build relationships and identify how each individual player will be an asset to the program.
“I think the way the landscape of recruiting in college football is a sooner-rather-than-later mindset,” said Venables, “and really the freshman or the sophomore doesn't understand what the scholarship is, they just want to know you — they got street cred with you.
“So to me, that's devaluing the offer. So again, I think it comes to go back to that — having value on your offer, what it really means when you put your name on it as a program and an organization then you're saying this guy's got it. All of it.”
Oklahoma’s new recruiting style won’t be foolproof, Venables said. But OU is going to do their best to sift through players who they feel won’t be excellent culture fits, as the coaching staff hopes to identify those who truly want to play a role in building toward future success in Norman.
“Doesn't mean you're never going to make mistakes and misevaluate somebody,” Venables said. “But if they don't have the character component, if they don't have the team-first component… then we need to move on despite what everybody else is doing.
“When we offer somebody, we've actually seen an academic transcript, they've actually played a couple of years of high school football, varsity football, they possess the intrinsic qualities that we're looking for that fit our culture and our values, and if it's somebody that's not a team guy, no matter what his talent, that's not us, we're moving on. We don't need that. Then you recruit your problems.”
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