Everything you need to know from Brent Venables’ Tuesday press conference

Everything you need to know from Brent Venables’ Tuesday press conference

Brent Venables spent 30 minutes with reporters Tuesday morning ahead of Oklahoma’s Week 2 visit from SMU (5 p.m., ESPN+). Here’s what you need to know.

Eli Lederman

By Eli Lederman

| Sep 5, 2023, 1:16pm CDT

Eli Lederman

By Eli Lederman

Sep 5, 2023, 1:16pm CDT

Brent Venables spent 30 minutes with reporters Tuesday morning ahead of Oklahoma’s Week 2 visit from SMU (5 p.m., ESPN+). Here’s what you need to know:

On the Mustangs

If anyone outside the four walls of the Sooners’ team facility is taking SMU lightly, the same cannot be said among OU’s coaching staff in the lead-up to Saturday’s evening kick at Owen Field.

“Got a really good, strong SMU team coming in here this weekend,” Venables said. “Really looking forward to the challenge that they bring to the table. It’s a veteran football team. They’ve got, give or take, 14 or 15 seniors on defense and offense. Very experienced football team. They’ve done a great job in just a short amount of time. 

“I know Rhett Lashlee really well and everywhere he’s been he’s had great success. Obviously on the offensive side of the ball as a coordinator. And he’s done a great job here in a short amount of time with SMU.”

The Mustangs began their 2023 campaign with a 38-14 win over Louisiana Tech in Week 1. Like offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby on Monday, Venables noted the work SMU has done in the transfer portal to bolster its roster this fall. 

“They’ve recruited well,” he said. “They’ve really attacked the portal. They have excellent skill guys on offense that they’ve been able to develop and again have recruited in the transfer portal. LJ Johnson, Texas A&M running back, and Jaylen Knighten from Miami are two guys in particular in the backfield that are really explosive players, highly recruited guys. They’ve done a great job.”

Injury report

It wasn’t much of an update but Venables offered some details on the Sooners who left the season opener injured. 

“Don’t know anything different today,” he said. “Don’t have any idea whether or not those guys will be available”. 

Venables said OU initially worried that linebacker Dasan McCullough had suffered a high ankle sprain against Arkansas State but further evaluation revealed the injury was less severe. 

McCullough was spotted with a protective boot on his left foot following Monday night’s practice.

Venables gave no update on Drake Stoops (shoulder) and only reiterated that the veteran pass catcher was eager to return to action Saturday after exiting in the first quarter holding his right shoulder.

Third-string quarterback Davis Beville (ankle) is expected to be out “another week or so.” 

Running back Gavin Sawchuk and defensive lineman R Mason Thomas will be both available in Week 2, Venables said. 

Gabriel shining early

 Dillon Gabriel completed a career-high 86.3% of his passes in the opener when he tallied 308 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the air with another score on the ground before exiting at halftime.

Venables sees that showing as just the start as Gabriel embarks on his second season at OU and as the product of another year of maturity and time spent in the system in Norman. 

“I think that you’re seeing the best version of him,” he said of Gabriel. “He’s been a highly productive player. He’d probably be the first to tell you that another offseason of film study and in the work that he’s put in, how he watches video and looks at an opponent, you know, the pre and post-snap diagnosis has probably slowed down.”

More to come for Adebawore

Venables revealed Tuesday that five-star freshman edge rusher Adepoju Adebawore was “a little bit banged up” at the start of fall camp but is progressing well in the early weeks of his debut college season.

I’ve been really excited about where he is and where he’s going and what he brings to the table. My expectation is he’ll continue to enhance his role as the season goes on.”

Adebawore played 11 snaps and recorded a tackle in OU’s Week 1 victory over Arkansas State.

Pettaway’s early impression

Jaquaize Pettaway opened his OU career with a game-high nine catches for 56 yards against Arkansas State. On Monday, the freshman wide receiver credited his sharp performance out of the gate to the “countless hours” he spent poring over the Sooners’ playbook.

Here’s what Venables has seen since Pettaway arrived on campus this summer:

“He’s mature. Really intelligent. High football IQ. He’s got a motor. Loves to practice. Loves to work. Super coachable. He’s a football player. He literally could come play DB tomorrow for us. A lot to really like about him. He’s incredibly talented. But he’s got all the other stuff though, too. The intangibles. The humility. The intelligence. The toughness. Really tough guy.”

Thibodeaux returns

An interesting wrinkle in this weekend’s matchup is Calvin Thibodeaux’s return to Owen Field.

The former defensive lineman was a three-time Big 12 champion under Venables at OU from 2002-06 and later spent six seasons as the Sooners’ defensive line coach from 2016-21. 

Thibodeaux was among the assistant coaches left behind when Lincoln Riley left for USC late in 2021 and Venables explained that he was “upfront and honest” with him when he arrived to the program with current OU defensive line coach Todd Bates already on board. 

“Love Calvin,” Venables said. “Appreciate everything he did here as a Sooner. He’s a Sooner. A great Sooner. I let him know immediately that I certainly would consider it but I’ve offered the job to someone else and I’m gonna give him an opportunity to take it before I move forward.”

Thibodeaux joined the staff at SMU shortly after and is in his second season with the Mustangs.

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Eli Lederman reports on the University of Oklahoma for Sellout Crowd. He began his professional career covering the University of Missouri with the Columbia Missourian and later worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before two years writing on the Sooners and Cowboys at the Tulsa World. Born and raised in Mamaroneck, New York, Lederman grew up a rabid consumer of the New York sports pages and an avid fan of the New York Mets. He entered sportswriting at 14 years old and later graduated from the University of Missouri. Away from the keyboard, he can usually be found exploring the Oklahoma City food scene or watching/playing fútbol (read: soccer). He can be reached at [email protected].

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