The biggest theme of Brent Venables’ first offseason in Norman was changing the mindset and the culture culture of the team. Through the first three games, it looks like the preparation is beginning to pay off.
As a team, Oklahoma is 3-0 coming off an impressive 49-14 win on the road over Nebraska. The Sooners have played complimentary football and the defense seems to be well ahead of schedule. Through three games in 2022, Oklahoma has allowed just 30 total points. In 2021, the Sooners gave up 35 points to Tulane in the season opener.
With the initial production level being so high, both the players and coaches are seeing early results. There’s certainly a long road ahead, but the benefits of preparation seem to be evident early on. No matter who has been on the field for the Sooners, the intensity and attention to detail hasn’t dropped off, whether it’s mop-up duty or the first play of the game.
“The expectation is that we play to a standard here, we don’t play to a scoreboard,” Ted Roof said at Oklahoma’s media availability Monday. “We don’t want guys watching the scoreboard, we want guys thinking about what they’re supposed to do, how they’re supposed to do it and the way they are supposed to do it.”
On-field production is obviously the most important piece to the puzzle, but chemistry and progression off the field has easily had a hand in some of the success. When the team is on the same page in the locker room, coaches and team, there’s more success found on the field.
Players haven’t hesitated to mention this team is much closer than teams of the past. The togetherness was tested in Oklahoma’s first road game of the season, and the Sooners continued to respond.
“I was just as proud of the older guys when the younger guys got in,” Roof said. “They were behind the benches, going over the corrections with them and all the adjustments. Staying fully engaged. That’s the culture here set by Coach Venables.”
When team leaders are running through corrections with young guys coming off the field in the late stages of the game, the culture is speaking. The way the veterans on this team care about the development of younger players is special, and something unique to the Venables era. It seems like each player is less worried about personal statistics and more about the overall progression of the team.
On the defensive side of the ball, stats and scores might not mean quite as much. But in a high-powered offense, spreading the ball around and feeding every playmaker can definitely be a concern. Under Venables, though, that just doesn’t seem to be the case.
“I think a bunch of different guys touching the football makes it a lot harder on the guys across the line of scrimmage, so continuing to spread it and find ways to get guys involved,” Jeff Lebby said. “That's a huge deal for us and where we want to take this thing and what we want to do. …
“We've got a great culture inside that locker room right down inside the building and it’s all because of Coach V and and how he sets the standard and how we operate every single day. Unselfish play is a big part of who we are and who we're going to be.”