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Venables Vibes: Oklahoma's Cheetah Position Could Look Different in Tulsa

The Sooners are working through a pair of injuries at cheetah linebacker ahead of this weekend's non-conference finale.

NORMAN — Oklahoma’s final non-conference battle will also represent the Sooners’ first road trip of the season.

No. 19-ranked OU (2-0) will travel to Green Country to take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (1-1) where Brent Venables will reunite with former Oklahoma offensive coordinator and first-year Tulsa head coach Kevin Wilson.

Bob Stoops’ fingerprints are all over the in-state contest, but Venables will look for his program to continue on the path forward in his second year back in Norman.

Tuesday, Venables previewed the contest in his weekly press conference:

Injury Update

FB - Justin Harrington, SMU Mustangs

Oklahoma's Justin Harrington (4) caught his second interception as a Sooner against the SMU Mustangs. 

Oklahoma may be down a couple of defenders on Saturday — specially at the cheetah linebacker spot.

Dasan McCullough suited up last Saturday for OU’s 28-11 win over SMU, but he didn’t participate in pregame warmups or see the field during the game.

Venables said the Sooners are “hopeful” McCullough will be able to give a go agains the Golden Hurricane.

Justin Harrington, who played a majority of the snaps against the Mustangs with McCullough out, is “still banged up” and had a wrap on his left knee after the win.

Venables did have positive news at cornerback, however.

The OU coach confirmed Gentry Williams will play Saturday, as he returns to his hometown as one of the Sooners’ captains this week.

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Developing Arnold

Oklahoma freshman quarterback Jackson Arnold carried the ball four times against SMU. 

Oklahoma freshman quarterback Jackson Arnold carried the ball four times against SMU. 

True freshman quarterback Jackson Arnold didn’t get to take any snaps in mop up duty against SMU, but offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby debuted a short yardage package with the backup quarterback at the helm.

Throughout fall camp, both Venables and Lebby maintained Arnold was pushing for a role with the Sooners in 2023, and his inclusion in Saturday’s game plan confirms OU is looking to get any experience possible as a catalyst for his development.

“He’s our No. 2 quarterback. I don’t see any reason we would want to redshirt him,” Venables said. “We can’t afford to. We don’t have the depth at that position, so we have to continue to bring him along.”

Arnold showed off his arm talent against Arkansas State, completing 11-of-11 passes for 114 yards and a passing touchdown, and the coaching staff sees him as more than just a weapon in short yardage situations.

“What we’re doing with him, I don’t think that’s necessarily indicative of what he can’t do,” Venables said. “We’ll continue to give him some opportunity when it’s the right time. And trying to get him experience, confidence, comfort, all those things through for getting him on the field and meaningful playing time.”

Receiving National Recognition

Oklahoma linebacker Danny Stutsman led the team with 17 tackles against SMU.

Oklahoma linebacker Danny Stutsman led the team with 17 tackles against SMU.

Danny Stutsman’s performance on Saturday earned him plenty of recognition.

The OU linebacker was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week as well as the Walter Camp FBS National Defensive Player of the Week after totaling 17 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery.

Stutsman looked to take his game to another level toward the end of the 2022 season, but the toll of playing virtually every meaningful snap all year caught up to him in fourth quarters.

With more linebackers able to chip in, Stutsman looked fresh throughout the entire battle with SMU.

But Venables attributes his early-season success to more than just fresh legs.

“He’s playing in a confident way,” Venables said. “He’s able to have a different level of anticipation because of his knowledge. Again, just being another year in the system, he’s a lot more comfortable.

“He’s able to lead. He’s not in the back. He’s in the front. Last year, David Ugwoegbu was probably our leader there. He’s taken those reins in leadership and confidence.”

Oklahoma has needed his leadership as Jaren Kanak is starting at linebacker for the first time this season and the Sooners are also getting contributions from second year linebackers in Kip Lewis and Kobie McKinzie