Oklahoma coach Brent Venables hits rough patch in 1st year

brent venables
Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

NORMAN, Okla. — The party is over for Brent Venables.

Oklahoma’s new football coach was welcomed at the Norman airport like a conquering hero when he arrived to replace USC-bound Lincoln Riley in December.

Venables seemed to be the perfect person to steady the program to fans who had been watching him ever since he left his job as an Oklahoma assistant after the 2011 season to become defensive coordinator at Clemson. Some had second thoughts when Venables vehemently approved of popular receivers coach Cale Gundy’s resignation in August after Gundy said a “racially charged” word at a film session.

All seemed forgiven when Oklahoma got off to a 3-0 start that culminated with a 49-14 blowout of Nebraska, but things fell apart the next two weeks. The Sooners lost at home to Kansas State, then were demolished 55-24 at TCU. Oklahoma has fallen out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since October 2020, ending a run of 31 straight rankings.

Now, the Sooners face their biggest rival, Texas, in Dallas on Saturday. Venables said the Sooners (3-2, 0-2 Big 12) need to stay focused to get out of their slump and win their fifth straight in the series with the Longhorns (3-2, 1-1).

“I know the emotion, the intensity and what this game has meant to so many people,” he said. “But we shouldn’t prepare for this game any different than we do any other game. And if we are, and I allow that, then I’m not doing a good job leading. We shouldn’t do extra this week or be more committed this week. We should be habitual in how we get ready to play.”

A loss would be the third straight for the Sooners, something that hasn’t happened since 1998. But Venables has been through rough patches before. Just last year, Clemson started the season 4-3 before reeling off six straight wins.

“That team made a decision to get better and not allow themselves to be influenced by the outside noise, only be influenced by a straining to do everything you can to improve every day,” he said. “One practice, one meeting at a time. That’s literally how you do it. And not allow seeds of doubt or seeds of division to come into the locker room.”

There are plenty of reasons for Oklahoma’s struggles, but they start with the defense. The unit started the season strong, allowing just 10 points per game in three wins. Even after the fast start, Venables warned that coaching becomes more difficult when things go well.

“The hardest thing about success and the thing that’s going to challenge success the most is guys getting bored with doing the mundane and staying in that routine,” he said before the Sooners played Kansas State. “Not only staying in the routine but being intentional and purposeful within that routine.”

The effort was there the next two weeks, but the discipline wasn’t. The Sooners gave up 509 yards against Kansas State, then surrendered 668 yards against TCU.

After answering numerous questions about the team’s recent struggles, Venables clearly was ready to move on.

“Ninety percent of the questions today is about last week’s game, it’s about the rearview mirror, it’s about what happened yesterday,” he said. “And here today, I want the focus to be on what’s ahead, what’s in front of us right now going down to Dallas and the challenge that is, where all of our focus is right now.”

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian respects Venables and knows what he can get out of a defense.

“Coach Venables has been doing it a long time,” Sarkisian said. “They’ve got myriad defenses. They can cause a lot of problems up front with their pressure packages. And then they disguise coverages. At the end of the day, we have to prepare for all of that.”

Alabama suspends freshman defensive back after drug arrest

alabama football
Getty Images

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama freshman defensive back Tony Mitchell has been suspended from the team following his arrest on a drug charge.

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said Monday after the first practice of spring that Mitchell was suspended from the team “and all team activities until we gather more information about the situation and what his legal circumstance is.”

The Holmes County Sheriff’s Office arrested Mitchell and another man, Christophere Lewis, last week on a charge of possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, according to a post on the department’s Facebook page. Lewis also was charged with carrying a concealed gun without a permit.

“Everybody’s got an opportunity to make choices and decisions,” Saban said. “There’s no such thing as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You’ve gotta be responsible for who you’re with, who you’re around and what you do, who you associate yourself with and the situations that you put yourself in. It is what it is, but there is cause and effect when you make choices and decisions that put you in bad situations.”

Mitchell, who is from Alabaster, Alabama, was a five-star prospect rated the 34th-best player and No. 3 safety in the 247Composite rankings.

Mitchell was driving the vehicle during a traffic stop. After deputies smelled marijuana, Mitchell picked up a baggie of marijuana from the passenger floorboard, according to the department’s Facebook post.

Sheriff’s deputies found “an additional significant amount of marijuana, a set of scales, a loaded handgun between the passenger seat and center console, and a large amount of cash,” according to the department’s Facebook post.

Missouri linebacker Chad Bailey suspended after arrest

Saul Young/News Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri linebacker Chad Bailey was suspended from the team after he was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, the team said.

The 23-year-old, who was a team captain last season, was booked at about 2:45 a.m. and released after posting $500 bond, according to online records from the Boone County Sheriff’s Office.

“We are aware of the situation involving Chad Bailey,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said in a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He’s been suspended according to Department of Athletics policy. We have high expectations for all of our student-athletes, on and off the field, and we will follow all departmental and campus policies.”

Bailey was Mizzou’s third-leading tackler with 57 stops last season. He started all 11 games he played, missing two with an injury. He’ll be a sixth-year senior this fall after opting to return for his final year of eligibility, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The Missouri student-athlete handbook says any athlete who is arrested must serve a minimum one-week suspension.

Bailey was pulled over at about 1 a.m. not far from the Columbia campus for an expired license plate and lane violation, a police statement said. Bailey told the officer he had consumed alcohol and then performed poorly on a field sobriety test, the Post-Dispatch reported.