Brent Venables' defense has it's toughest challenge of the season on Saturday as the Sooners head into Stillwater for a Big 12 South showdown. OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden leads the conference in total offense and passing yards per game, while Justin Blackmon leads the conference in receptions and receiving yards per game. Venables talked this week about the challenge of the Cowboys' offense.
Brent, one of the obvious players you guys will focus on tomorrow is Justin Blackmon. What makes this kid so special and what makes him so hard to cover? His strength, his speed and his ball skills. He's just got a knack and a feel for it. He knows how to time it up.
It's hard to stop him, but what will your corner backs have to do to just slow him down? When the ball is up in the air, you'll have to outfight him for it. Don't let him get behind you because he gets behind a lot of people. They do a nice job with throwing it up and letting him come get it. You have to be better than him on all of those situations.
You were one of his bigger proponents when he was being recruited. Do you remember that? Yeah, we thought he was a very good player.
Did it just not work out? Our numbers weren't there. We were really close to being full and we had some other priorities at other positions.
Can you talk about the leaps that you've seen from Ronnell Lewis? He's obviously is getting a lot of snaps on the defense. He's just getting more comfortable. I think between next spring and fall is when you'll see a huge difference. Missing a good amount of time this season hurt him. He's played well over the last couple of weeks and we expect him to get better the more comfortable he gets.
Can an interception like he got on Saturday, elevate a guy in his position? One who's had an up-and-down season like he has. I think, anytime, that's a pretty big deal. To make one of those types of plays, along with grading out well is huge. I know how Ronnell is, he's not easily satisfied. He's hungry and he wants to find his niche. He wants to play.
How pleased are you to have Austin Box back, and how did he look today? He looked great, no limitations. We're really pleased to have a guy, who's penciled in as a starter, actually start.
Coach Stoops talked today about the history this team has had in this position, playing for a spot in the Big 12 championship nine of 11 years. Tell us the mindset behind that thinking and how you feel about that? I think that Coach Stoops, since we've been here, has built a level of expectation of where we should be at, at the end of the year. He does let us know what the standard is and how to live up to that standard. I think a lot of players, who have come through here, have done a terrific job of leaving a legacy on the process and how you go about putting yourself in the position to compete for a championship. It's a season-long deal. Sometimes you can get lulled in the week-to-week emotions of playing really well and sometimes not playing really well. You really have to have a focus and great leadership.
Certainly Coach Stoops does a fabulous job of guiding the players through the season and taking them on a journey to keep their minds right in accomplishing that. I think there are a lot of variables that go into it and every season is different. You're players are different and your leadership is different. I'm real happy for our guys to have fought through the year. That's part of the journey, not everything is going to come easy. Very rarely does it ever. In 2003, it was probably the easiest, and you saw what happened in the championship game. It doesn't take much to get knocked off your pedestal, and we've come nowhere close to a pedestal. We're trying to make the climb and I think our guys are really excited about the opportunity.
Talk about Brandon Weeden, are you surprised that a guy like that was able to just step in and perform at this level? No, he's a very talented young man. Think about how many rounds there are in the major league baseball draft. Over 40! And he was in the top couple, that's a very good athlete. He doesn't surprise me. He didn't just show up off the turnip truck either. He's been in the program and he's been throwing with Coach Gundy. Mike is a terrific coach, his resume speaks volumes. Dana Holgerson has got a terrific offense and obviously Brandon has got a good head on his shoulders and has picked things up really well. I think he's got some terrific playmakers around him as well.
Is he as efficient of a quarterback as he looks? Yeah, absolutely. He's the best one that we've seen by a long ways. He's got tremendous accuracy and great poise. I think you've seen him get better and better as the season has gone on. He's really good.
It doesn't seem like he has quick feet either. He does not. He doesn't put them in negative plays, nor does he make a bunch of poor decisions. He's very mature that way.
Do you have any history with Dana Holgerson? Yeah, I know Dana from when I first came to Oklahoma and when he was first at Texas Tech. The first time I met him was down in McGregor, Texas, out in the sticks south of Waco. We were out chasing the next big one. I've known him since then and have stayed in contact. Obviously he's a terrific coach, he's very successful and has a great system. He knows what he's doing and he's very competitive.
Are you surprised at how quick they've picked it up? No, because I think you look at the history of that offense. It was just like Mike Leach when he came here in our first year. We were 7-5 and had the lead, in the fourth quarter, in all five losses. Then we won the national championship with that same type of system. It doesn't surprise me because he had the same type of success, immediately, when he went to Houston as well.
I saw a stat that said that OU and OSU were both in the Top-5, in the country, of freshman played. What does that say about this rivalry in the future? Well, we've both obviously recruited well. It's going to make for a tough rivalry this year and from here on out. You would always like to see your rival have a senior-laden class to where you can look forward to the next season. But, remember, they lost a bunch of guys from last year too. You have to give kudos and credit to Coach Gundy and his staff to what they've been able to accomplish.
Talk about the challenge of stopping the run, first, when you face such a dynamic offense like this one? Well, they're really good at everything. They just have a tremendous balance of offense that a lot of other 'good' offenses don't have. They just execute extremely well. They have found their playmakers and they know how to put them in position to make plays. They're players also understand their roles. Again, it's a tremendous challenge. It's hard to just take one thing away, and be successful. You have to play well. You have to play well as a team for us to win. We have to help each other on both sides of the ball.
Your corners have played so well as of recent, but this will be their biggest challenge. Talk about the game inside the game that most will be watching? But again, last week, we were concerned too. If Oklahoma State was leading in a certain offensive stat, then Baylor was second. A lot of people called for a shootout a week ago, and our guys took that as a challenge. Those guys in the back end knew, particularly, that Baylor was a big-strike, big-play offense. And they did a fabulous job of staying on top of everything, tackling well and getting their hands on the ball. That's going to be important this week.
But our pressure was pretty good last week, which helps those guys in the back end with coverage. Then, when the coverage is good, those guys up front are able to get to the quarterback. Everything works hand-in-hand. Not just one facet of our defense or team can play well and expect to win. You have to play well in a number of areas.
I'm not asking you to rank the two, but how would you compare Justin Blackmon to Dez Bryant? I think they're a lot the same. They're big, strong, fast guys. They have great ball skills and can really go up and attack the football and come down with it nine-out of-ten times. You see a real physical presence on the perimeter so you see a real unselfish attitude. I wish that we weren't playing them, but as a coach, you can really appreciate and respect that. It speaks volumes about the young men, but also the coaches and what they're teaching them.