The loss of Brent Venables after 12 years in Norman isn’t something Bob Stoops has been all that willing to talk about since last spring. When the subject is raised, Stoops is often quick to brush off the effects it’s had on him personally.
“That’s life, you know?” Stoops said in July during Big 12 Media Days in Dallas. “It’s OK. We’re all big boys.”
Stoops might have been able to brush it off publicly, but his former players haven’t been able to move on so easily. Linebacker Tom Wort was one such player who struggled with picking up the pieces and moving on after Venables departed.
“When (Tim Kish) first came in, I’d been in the old defense for the past three years, so I was like, ‘No, it’s supposed to be like this!’” Wort explained of his battle of wills with Venables’ replacement. “Then I kind of realized that wasn’t going to get me anywhere. Me trying to play like I did in the old defense - we have a new defense now - that’s not going to do me any good.”
It’s too easy to play amateur psychologist. Was Wort being stubborn about not wanting to learn a new system? Or was he rebelling a bit over losing his mentor, his coach and his friend.?
Don't forget, this is a player who also went through the tragedy and trauma of losing teammate Austin Box just a year earlier.
“I kind of had to grow up, get a little bit more mature,” he said. That’s when Wort recognized the friction between he and Kish. It was something he set out to get past last spring.
“I think anytime you’ve got a new coach coming in, you’ve got to reprove yourself all over. He hasn’t been here for the stuff I’ve done in the past. You don’t get any credit for that, or any benefit of the doubt.
“There’s always a little friction working through that and I felt some of that in the spring. We confronted that and then we moved on.”
Wort and Kish are now ready to move on to the next stage.
They’ve been through their battle of wills. They’ve changed the way they operate. Now the relationship takes the next step as the whole world gets to see how far they’ve come, or how far they still need to go.
“You have to be everything in this defense. You have to be strong and you also have to be fast enough to get from sideline to sideline and then you have to cover the deep balls,” said Wort. “This defense asks a lot out of you so you’ve got to be a bit of everything. You can’t be just one thing or you’ll fall short in those areas.”
PACKING ON THE POUNDS
Look for defensive end David King to play more than expected at defensive tackle this weekend in El Paso. King has always been larger than most defensive ends, but now that he’s being asked to gain about 10 pounds, he’s having a tough time making it happen.
"That’s a little bit harder. I’m up to about 285 now,” he explained. “Coach Shipp wants me at 290 but Coach Stoops wants me at a comfortable playing weight. I feel like I’m comfortable around 285, 290.”
King says he wants to eat more, but he’s sometimes limited by the time of day.
“I try not to eat too much before practice because I don’t’ want it all to come back up, usually late at night and I try to let it sit in my stomach overnight,” he explained. “I eat big breakfasts and kind of heavy lunches but not too much because I know we have practice later on and I usually just let it all loose on the weekend.”
So what does it mean when he lets it all loose?
“Just eat and eat and eat,” he said. “I go wherever I feel like going.”
King says his favorite place to chow down isn’t at an all-you-can-eat buffet, but Chilis.
Junior college transfer Lacoltan Bester was going to open his 2012 college season in El Paso no matter what. If he wasn’t traveling to El Paso with the Sooners, he’d be playing his first home game as a member of the Miners.
That’s because other than the Sooners, the only other serious offer he had coming out of Mississippi Community College was from Mike Price and Texas-El Paso.
“I was going to visit (UTEP), but I ended up signing here first,” explained Bester. “ I didn't get a chance to visit. Their coaches came and talked to me at home.
“When I told the coaches I was going to come here, they said, ‘We'll see you September first.’”
Bester hasn’t been talked up as much as other new faces such as Justin Brown, Trey Metoyer or Sterling Shepard, but he will be a part of the OU offense Saturday.
“I feel like I should get my snaps,” Bester said. “I'm going to take advantage of every opportunity I get. When my name is called, I'll be ready to play.”