NORMAN — Day One of the Brent Venables era began at midnight Sunday and didn’t really slow down much.
But between a few hours sleep and lots of family time, Oklahoma’s new football coach started to set his priorities.
His first day on the job, Venables was asked what it felt like to wake up Monday as the Sooners’ new skipper, and although he said it was “really indescribable,” he also acknowledged that the vibe he got at Max Westheimer Airport the night before never really died down.
“I woke up at four o'clock in the morning trying to be quiet for Julie,” he said. “She goes, 'I'm up.' So we flipped on and we're back at it. It's amazing.”
Only a few hours before, the whole family — Brent and Julie, Jake and Tyler, Laney and Addie — was abuzz.
“It was so cool,” Venables said at his introductory press conference. “It was like, 'Hey, you guys wanna go over to the stadium?' 'Yeah, let's go check it out.' It was dark and we saw all the lights. I had no idea everybody else was coming. We had a blast, like, just a blast. You talk about going down memory lane. Just some amazing memories. Our family was molded and shaped here. Just so many incredible influences.”
Eventually, stomachs started to rumble.
“We're going home, where we were going to stay, and we are starving. This is, what time was this? Yeah, way after midnight. And we found Whataburger. Game changer. They don't have one of those in Clemson. Triple cheeseburger later, and some onion rings, and we were in hog heaven.”
After a quick stroll down memory lane and some comfort food, Venables’ immediate priorities turned to the immediate future: he met the team, addressed them directly at his pep rally, did his press conference — then hit the road recruiting, and do the same thing in the Switzer Center.
“My No. 1 goal is to get on the road recruiting,” Venables said. “Make sure that this ’22 class that’s due to enroll here in the next few weeks is where it needs to be. And and then all the while, in between visits, you know, visiting with our current players.”
With recent defections through the transfer portal and Monday’s announcement by Nik Bonitto that he’ll opt out of the bowl game to begin training for the NFL Draft, Venables took on the topic head-on.
“The transfer portal, we just make it easy,” Venables said, “and it’s actually kind of ‘cool to just quit’, you know? It's like, cool to quit. And I don't get that, you know?”
Venables obviously wants to keep as many current players as he can. It’s hard to build for the future if the present is crumbling.
“It is a real issue,” he said.
“You know, football is a developmental game. The more you play, the more you practice, the better you get. There's a reason why that fourth- and fifth-year player — I had a couple of sixth-year guys this year, amazing players — they just played way up here. They fly up here where the Gulfstream does, you know, they’re not down here with the King Air, they're up there with that Gulfstream.”
Young players, he said, can experience ups and downs. That’s the value of development — and for development to happen, players have to stick around.
“I think it's important,” he said. “It’s my responsibility, that I continually remind our staff when we get everybody in place that there's nothing that's more important than those guys in the locker room. Period. And that other stuff can wait.”