Oklahoma Sooners Football: The Choice is Clear for Brent Venables

By Luke McConnell

Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables must be losing a lot of sleep these days, and understandably so. He’s got a lot on his mind.

The 41-year old assistant coach of 13 years has two terrific options in front of him, and the decision really comes down to what he wants.

In one corner, you have the possibility of becoming the sole defensive coordinator for the Clemson Tigers. Clemson is a program that is trying to return to the glory days it had back in the 1980s. However, they’ve been trying to do that for quite some time now.

The Tigers won their first ACC championship since 1991 this past season, behind the emergence of quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Both are returning, along with running back Andre Ellington, in 2012.

However, the Tigers didn’t win 10 games this season thanks to its defense. The Tigers were porous on defense throughout the season, culminating in an embarrassing Orange Bowl performance against West Virginia, in which Clemson gave up a bowl record 70 points.

Venables would be handed the reigns to that defense and no doubt he would be able to whip it into shape, or at least make it a respectable unit. Venables specialty is linebackers and that bodes well for Clemson, who boasts a pair of highly touted young linebackers in Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward.

Also, Clemson is a gorgeous setting in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains in upstate South Carolina. It’s a football school and the passion from the fans is among the best in the nation.

In the other corner is OU, one of the greatest college football programs in history. Venables has been loyal to OU for 13 seasons and has dealt with a lot of criticism over the years when his current units have not lived up to the billing of their predecessors.

Should Venables stay at OU, he would be making less money, and possibly put the proverbial ceiling over his coaching career. Any improvement in the OU defense over the next season or two is going to be attributed to the return of Mike Stoops, whether that’s the actual truth or not.

That’s going to be a bad outward perception for Venables, who has wanted a head coaching job for some time. Ironically, he interviewed for the Clemson head coaching position after Tommy Bowden was fired mid-season in 2008, but Dabo Swinney retained the job, after finishing the season strong as the interim head coach.

If Venables stays at OU, it’s going to be because he is satisfied where he is at and has little to no desire to push his career further. If that is not the case and he wants to pursue other possibilities and eventually have a head coaching position, he should leave.

At Clemson, the defense would be his own, the money would be better, and that key possibility of someday obtaining a head coaching position will be greatly enhanced.

That’s not to say staying at OU will kill his chances of becoming a head coach. There will always be that possibility. Unfortunately, the deck is stacked against Venables should he stay in Norman and everything goes according to plan. Mike Stoops is going to get the credit for any defensive improvement. That’s almost a certainty, considering the dominance of the OU defenses when Stoops was on staff from 1999-2003.

Ultimately, it’s a simple matter of what Venables wants for his career. There are times where it’s ok to be a little selfish.

For Venables, that time is now, and if he wants more, it’s time to go.

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