Oklahoma spring football storylines: Venables seeks to right the ship

There’s pretty lots of stress on Oklahoma this year — extra than this system has felt rapidly. That’s due to the the Sooners executed 6-7 in head coach Brent Venables’ first season, this system’s most losses since 1998, the year sooner than Bob Stoops used to be hired.

It’s also Oklahoma’s final season enjoying in the Spacious 12 sooner than transferring to the SEC with Texas in 2024, and it certainly doesn’t favor to leave the league it’s owned for 20-plus years on a sour indicate. It’s a abnormal feeling to fee OU on this arrangement. Stoops created a juggernaut and Lincoln Riley kept issues rolling and not utilizing a drop-off. But when he left for USC, Riley took Heisman Trophy-a success quarterback Caleb Williams and broad receiver Mario Williams with him, leaving the following staff in a lurch.

Venables sucked it up and made it thru Year 1. Heading into 2023, he’s taken superb thing about the switch portal — severely so on protection, which executed final season ranked No. 122 out of 131 groups. It used to be an unhappy arrangement for a defensive guru bask in Venables, as his unit gave up 461 yards and 30 aspects per sport.

While OU has misplaced some of the crucial most attention-grabbing talent it had, including leading receiver Marvin Mims Jr., leading rusher Eric Grey and top tight end Brayden Willis, it gets extinct quarterback Dillon Gabriel back. Even with Oklahoma’s unpleasant season, Gabriel used to be the 2d-most productive quarterback in the Spacious 12 (in the back of Spencer Sanders, who transferred from Oklahoma Relate to Ole Omit) and his expertise shall be excessive to OU’s success in 2023.

With all of that in suggestions, listed below are about a storylines surrounding the Sooners as they originate up spring ball.

Is Brent Venables the right man for this job?

For years Venables used to be annually the most accepted title in the teaching carousel. He used to be overjoyed in his arrangement as defensive coordinator at Clemson, the set up he and Dabo Swinney led the Tigers to two national championship victories in opposition to Alabama in 2016 and ‘18. It used to be constantly going to eradicate the appropriate job for him to leave.

Texas and Oklahoma’s early exit from Spacious 12

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Oklahoma used to be — is — that job. Venables’ career began in the Spacious 12. He played linebacker at Kansas Relate sooner than teaching at his alma mater for six seasons and used to be later hired at OU as its defensive coordinator and affiliate head coach beneath Stoops. OU used to be the dream area for the nation’s most prized coordinator. 

But then his first season in 2022 used to be a catastrophe. This incorporated a 31-point loss to TCU the week sooner than a historic 49-0 shellacking by Texas in the Red River Showdown. It used to be this system’s worst loss in the historical previous of the contention. To originate issues off, the Sooners ended the season with a narrow 35-32 loss to Florida Relate in the Cheez-It Bowl.

It’s silly to ponder Venables’ head would possibly be on the cutting block after one unfriendly year. Even Stoops had about a unfriendly seasons in Norman, including his first two. But there’s a critical amount of stress on Venables in Year 2 to speak issues spherical, severely sooner than the Sooners join the SEC.

With a top-5 recruiting class for 2023 and the Spacious 12’s most productive returning quarterback, are issues having a value up for Venables and the Sooners this year?

Dillon Gabriel integral to OU’s success

For as crummy as Oklahoma’s season used to be in 2022, Gabriel used to be the shiny location. The rising senior achieved extra than 60% of his passes for 3,168 yards with 25 touchdowns to superb six interceptions. He did pass over one sport — the painful loss to Texas — with an hurt. But he’s the Spacious 12’s top returning quarterback for 2023 and no person would possibly be stunned if he by hook or by crook willed the Sooners to a convention title.

Gabriel has expertise now after one season working with offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, with whom he has a tight-knit relationship. Gabriel understands the offense, can bring youthful playmakers along, and can provide that management and balance for an offensive line that misplaced three starters to the NFL, including likely first-spherical receive Anton Harrison.

OU’s offense wasn’t the affirm final year — Gabriel led a unit that ranked 13th nationally in whole offense and scored 32.8 PPG. Compare that to a protection that gave up 30 PPG. While Gabriel is no longer the the same caliber as some recent big title quarterbacks at Oklahoma, bask in Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts and Williams, he’s clean a extinct man who can abet set up this system up for achievement and derive it out of its most up-to-the-minute funk.

Waiting in the wings is 5-big title QB Jackson Arnold, who has enrolled early and is predicted to be the following wide thing in Norman. Rated the No. 4 quarterback in the country, Arnold used to be also the Gatorade National Participant of the Year and held the Sooners’ 2023 class together after Riley left for L.A.

Dillon Gabriel to Jalil Farooq

Oklahoma Sooners would possibly enjoy considered a watch of their future on this play in opposition to Iowa Relate final season.

But who will Gabriel give the ball to?

All this focus on Gabriel, however what we don’t in point of fact know is who’ll receive his passes. His top playmakers left for the NFL, so it’s going to eradicate working time beyond legislation with youthful, much less experienced guys to derive this offense clicking and scoring hundreds aspects.

Guys to opt an watch on encompass Jalil Farooq, a rising junior receiver who executed fourth on the team final season in the back of Mims, Willis and Drake Stoops with 37 catches for 466 yards and 5 touchdowns. The weird and wonderful four-big title recruit is 6-foot-1, 203, and began 9 games final year. The Sooners also obtained some abet from the switch portal, snagging Michigan receiver Andrel Anthony, who would possibly maintain an instantaneous influence.

Fans would possibly clean also be hooked in to working back Jovantae Barnes. His title would possibly be extra acquainted, because the rising sophomore used to be the No. 2 rusher in the back of Grey final season with 519 yards and 5 touchdowns. When Grey opted to take a seat out of the Cheez-It Bowl, Barnes, who’s a limited of bigger than his predecessor, stepped up and ran for 108 yards and a touchdown in the loss to FSU.

No topic who shines this spring, the supreme thing right here is that the Sooners enjoy Gabriel to cleared the course.

Laken Litman covers school football, school basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She beforehand wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA This present day and The Indianapolis Superstar. She is the creator of “Tough Love a Girl,” printed in spring 2022 to tag the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Apply her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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