Why Brent Venables believes OU football's brand 'takes a backseat to nobody' on the recruiting trail
Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables doesn't plan on taking a backseat to anybody on the recruiting trail.
The former Clemson defensive coordinator is now behind the wheel at OU after taking the job on Dec. 3, just two weeks before the NCAA's early signing period on Wednesday.
That didn't leave much time for Venables and his retooled staff to make pitches to prospects in the Class of 2022, but the first-year head coach is confident that the OU brand will steer those conversations.
“You don't see Rolls Royce commercials ever,” Venables said at his introductory press conference on Monday. “You don't see them, do you? Commercials? And I'm not saying this in an egotistical way. But Oklahoma and its rich history, tradition and success takes a backseat to nobody.
"We shouldn't have to go across the country to the mega-camps where there are 600 kids and 30 colleges.”
Instead of chasing after the most sought-after prospects, Venables plans on approaching the recruiting trail with a different perspective.
"Find people first," Venables said. "Yeah, they’ve got to be talented. That goes without saying. They’ve got to be a great player, but we’re going to look for people first because I think that’s what sustains.
"There’ll be some tough moments when you go to college. It’s hard, especially when you’re young and immature. So I think it’s important that you find people that got the right stuff."
Venables' people-first approach paid off at Clemson. He found numerous hidden gems on the recruiting trail during his 10 seasons with the Tigers, including James Skalski.
The 6-foot linebacker committed to Clemson in 2015 as a consensus three-star prospect, but he finished this regular season with a team-high 97 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss.
Baylon Spector is another prime example. The 6-foot-2 linebacker also boasted a three-star status in the Class of 2017, but he finished this season with 85 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss.
"I think it’s important that we’re patient and we find the fit in regards to the recruiting process," Venables said. "Be aggressive when you need to. You know it when you see it and you know it when you don’t."
Much like the keys to a Rolls Royce, Venables isn’t handing out offers to just anybody.
It's common for top prospects to boast a handful of scholarship offers by the time they reach their sophomore year of high school, but Venables isn't jumping the gun.
"Like, they're mad if they don't get an offer, you know?" Venables said. “And I'm like, what’s so wrong with starting a full year of varsity, you know? Go on your first date. Learn how to shave. Maybe get a driver’s license before you get a $120,000 scholarship.
"You’re mad we don’t offer you when you’re 14-years-old and you don’t know anything about them. There’s no track record, and we’re going to value our offer."
Once Venables finds a prospect who is worthy of an offer, it becomes time to deliver a pitch.
Despite winning three national championships as a defensive coordinator at OU (2000) and Clemson (2016, 2018), Venables' list of accolades as a head coach is blank.
That could present a problem for some prospects, but Venables believes the loyalty he showed during his time as an assistant coach holds some weight. He spent 13 seasons at OU and nine seasons at Clemson, and he passed up on numerous head coaching offers along the way.
"I have a career, almost 30 years, of being loyal," Venables said. "Just look at my career. If I’ve been something I’ve been loyal. I haven’t been a coach that’s just jumped all over. Take this job, take this job, take this job. I think that speaks for itself."