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Top 25 Intel: No. 3 Oklahoma

The Sooners' newfound experience on defense could be just the ticket

Originally Published: July 1, 2009
By Chris Sprow | ESPN The Magazine

When you talk to Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson (who won the Broyles Award as America's top assistant coach last season) and defensive coordinator Brent Venables, they sound a little like a pair of politicians the day after an election. You can barely figure out who won and who lost.

Ask Venables about struggles, and he'll emphasize the experienced group he'll now be working with, one that's ready to overcome any mistakes of the past: "With our front seven returning intact we have a chance to be awfully, awfully good." Or ask Wilson about replacing key staff, and he'll note the clear leadership in place: "We know how special [QB Sam] Bradford is."

In football, as in politics, you can spin dominant victories or crushing defeats into virtually anything. OU felt both in '08. In Norman in '09, though, "Change is here!" ought to also mean "Business as usual."

Start with the Venables administration. The OU defensive coordinator went into the 2008 campaign short. "We had seven first-year starters on defense, so I think it took some adjusting. There was a growing period, there's no question," he says.

That was no way to enter the Big 12. Venables says performance has to be considered relative to the talent faced, and "I think if you look at the Big 12, I don't even think it's debatable; you look at the skill level of quarterbacks, and the precision, and even the running backs to the wide receivers and tight ends, I don't know if you'll find a better collection of skill.

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