Who is Brent Venables? Meet Oklahoma’s new head coach reportedly replacing Lincoln Riley

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Since 1998, Oklahoma has been among the nation’s perennial college football power houses. There hasn’t been a losing season in Norman since 1998 and the Sooners have finished the season unranked just three times since then.

Throw in four consecutive Big 12 titles and four straight years of being ranked inside the top-10 and it made it that much more surprising that Lincoln Riley left Oklahoma last week to try and rebuild a sputtering USC program.

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Riley leaving created one of the biggest job openings in the country at a place where the job doesn’t come open very often. It’s now being reported that Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has agreed to succeed Riley, according to The Athletic, with an announcement possible as soon as Monday.

Venables has been at Clemson since 2012 and was the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma from 2004-11 but joined the Sooners’ staff in 1999 under then-coach Bob Stoops. He won three national championships as an assistant and was given the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach in 2016.

Sporting News has everything you need to know about the next coach of the Sooners.

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How old is Brent Venables?

At 50 years old, Venables would be the oldest coach to lead the Sooners since Howard Schnellenberger took over at age 61 for his lone season in Norman back in 1995. For comparison, Lincoln Riley was named coach of the Sooners at age 34 while College Football Hall of Famer and Riley’s predecessor Bob Stoops inherited the gig at age 39.

Among the four first-time FBS coaches hired last season the oldest was Soutnern Miss’ Will Hall, at age 40, while the youngest was South Alabama’s Kane Wommack, who was 33.

Venables began his coaching career as a 23-year-old grad assistant at Kansas State under Hall of Fame coach Bill Snyder, for whom Venables played for two seasons.

Brent Venables’ Oklahoma ties

If in fact Venables is named the next head coach of the Sooners, he’ll continue a trend of all but two Oklahoma coaches since 1966 either having played for or previously coached at Oklahoma.

Venables served on Stoops’ staff from 1999-2011. He first was the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach from 1999-03 before being elevated to full-time defensive coordinator from 2004-11, when he left to go to Clemson.

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During Venables’ first stay in Norman, the Sooners ranked first in both passing and total defense and third in scoring defense in 2003, while leading the Big 12 in total defense and scoring defense in 2006. As a result of the 2006 season, Venables was named a finalist for the Broyles Award for the first time in his career.

Venables is known for his fiery personality on the sidelines, often having to be held back and held in check, much like his predecessor Riley and his mentor Stoops.

Oklahoma has been a Big 12 power since the conference’s inception in 1996, but the longtime Norman resident will also likely be tasked with overseeing the program’s transition to the SEC ahead of the 2025 season.

Clemson’s defense under Venables

Venables signed a contract extension in the offseason that pays him $2.5 million annually through 2025. That makes him the highest paid assistant in the country and higher paid than some head coaches.

It makes sense, though, given he won the 2016 Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach for his work with a national championship winning defense and has boasted one of the country’s better defensive units over the last decade.

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But 2016 was far from the Tigers’ best year defensively with Venables at the helm.

Year Total Defense (rank) Scoring Defense (rank) Third Down defense (rank) Red Zone Defense (rank)
2012 63 48 24 21
2013 25 24 5 48
2014 1 3 1 13
2015 10 24 4 62
2016 8 10 5 30
2017 4 2 6 31
2018 5 1 6 4
2019 6 3 11 19
2020 15 18 10 31
2021 9 2 22 2

Clemson made major strides after Venables’ first two years, turning into a formidable defensive team as well as an offensive juggernaut with players like Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence leading the charge at quarterback.

Venables picked up two national titles with Clemson, in 2016 and 2018, when the Tigers yielded just 16 points to Alabama in the national championship game.



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