Oklahoma is targeting Clemson’s defensive coordinator Brent Venables to be its new head coach, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Oklahoma Venables was “getting tough” and an agreement could be reached later Sunday, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been done.
Venables will replace Lincoln Riley, who left last week to take charge of USC.
The Venables were in the Oklahoma staff under Bob Stoops as co-defensive coordinator from 1999 to 2003 and defensive coordinator from 2004 to 2011. He was co-defensive coordinator when Sooners won the 2000 national title. He left Oklahoma for Clemson in 2012 and won the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach in 2016.
Venables’ Clemson defense led the nation in defense scoring in 2018, and their 2020 unit tied for the nation’s lead in the sacks. This season, Clemson is second in defense scoring at the national level, ninth in overall defense, eighth in defense and sixth in pass efficiency defense.
When Riley took over at USC, Oklahoma was provided security. Soon Stoops was made interim coach to calm things down during recruitment. Stoops reassured the fan base that things would be fine at an event that has won seven national titles and seven Heisman Trophy winners.
Venables quickly emerged as a favorite among fans for the job. Many expected the Sooners to bring him back from Clemson as defensive coordinator after the Sooners fired defensive coordinator Mike Stoops in 2018. The Sooners chose Alex Grinch, who has now joined Riley at USC.
Venables’ first order of business will be to protect the recruiting class as much as possible. Several players announced their intention to enter into the decision of the transfer portal relay, including quarterback Spencer Rattler. Several recruits were fired, including Malachi Nelson – a five-star quarterback who now says he is moving to USC.
Riley sets the bar high. He went 55–10 in five seasons with the Sooners and took them to three playoffs. Under his direction, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray both won the Heisman Trophy and were No. 1 overall in the NFL draft.
The Sooners went 10-2 this season and fell short of competing for a seventh consecutive Big 12 title. They lost their regular season finish 37–33 to Oklahoma State.
NWN College Football writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.
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