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November 19, 2010When Oklahoma travels to Waco on Saturday, Brent Venables' defense will be facing a quarterback who has matured dramatically since their last meeting. Robert Griffin III can take over games with his feet and his arm. Venables just needs his defense to come together for one big win on the road before the final gun sounds on a Big 12 South run. Here's a Q&A session with Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables about preparing for Baylor.
Can Austin Box be a difference maker for you guys down this back stretch?
I think he's played well over the last couple games. He didn't do anything superman-like that was really consistent. He understood the game plan and executed really well. (We'll see) if we get that from him and the other 11 guys. When we've not hurt ourselves this year, we've been really good. When we've made some subtle mistakes or drastic mistakes, the people we've played have been good enough to execute against us and hurt us. Having him in there gives us some consistency, yes.
Do you like the yin-and-yang of him and Tom Wort?
I do. Tom is a really good player and I feel very good about both guys. I trust both of them and I like what both of them bring to the table.
What do you think about Robert Griffin this week?
He's a terrific player. He's very scary, he's a monster. I love his will, his toughness and his leadership. He plays every snap with a great deal of purpose. He's obviously very talented. Every play, you're holding your breath.
He seems like he's in the pocket more, he seems like a more calm quarterback.
Oh yeah, like you would expect all young guys, early in their careers, to press things a little more and not have the patience. But as you get older and more experienced, you learn to trust the guys around you. Obviously, he's doing that.
Your history with Coach Briles predates him being at Baylor. What stands out when you think about his offense?
More than anything, he's very tough and he's very confident. He's got a go-for-broke mentality and his players feed off of that. He's an emotional guy and he's very fiery. Again, I think the team has fed off him. He's built a great deal of confidence and he's believable. Really, he's changed the culture there at Baylor big time. He's got the community and the players believing in what they doing.
Second, he's a very, very aggressive coach. In their approach, they're in constant attack mode. They have the pedal-to the-medal on every snap.
What are some other things about their offense that you notice?
I think they have great balance, running and throwing. They're one of the Top 5 offenses in the country, they and Oklahoma State are the Top 2 offenses in the Big 12. Both are breaking every scoreboard in the Big 12 week-by-week. They're just very productive and explosive.
Looking at the Big 12 stats today, you guys seem to be leading in almost every defensive category. Listening to you guys talk though, you wouldn't think you were that good.
Well, obviously we don't have much to be satisfied about. We're capable of playing well, and there have been five games where I felt like we played really, really well. But in other games we've been terribly inconsistent. When we haven't played well, it has more to do with us than it does them, that's been the frustrating part of it. You've seen guys get better, but occasionally we have lapses at the wrong time. Hopefully we can build on the positives of the things we've been able to accomplish. When you're comparing apples to apples as opposed to early in the preseason when everybody plays different styles of schedules, I don't really think that's indicative of who you really are. Now that you're comparing apples-to-apples, I think it's more reflective of the kind of defense we're capable of being if guys would just do their job. Again, it's very simple. Play with technique, have good eye and gap control and execute.
The one thing that I did notice was that the rushing yards are up from those in the past. It seems like when a team allows a lot of yards on the ground, it's hard to win games.
Yeah, and everything starts up the middle. It's well documented that we're not quite as strong as we've been there. We don't have quite the depth, and then we took a hit with some injuries. And a little bit of youth led to some inconsistencies at time. Starting inside out on your defense, it's important to have a foundation there. At times we haven't been what we wanted, we haven't got what we wanted. Getting Casey Walker back this week will help and guys are improving. We just need a few more live, able bodies. Again, nobody has to be Gerald McCoy, you just have to be consistent. Nobody has to play like a Butkus Award winner inside either. Use the system to your advantage, trust it and understand it. Unfortunately for us, you have a whole bunch of guys in the center that are all trying to mature and gain experience at the same time.
How do you look at your 3-4 defense?
It's been productive for us, statistically speaking. We're creating pressure, we're creating turnovers and we're doing well on third down. It's been productive, but you always want more. Some of the injuries have affected that. But I've been pleased overall.
Was that one of the things that got Ronnell Lewis on the field last week?
Ronnell was on the field because he practiced really well. As you looked at all of our defensive ends, outside of Jeremy Beal, Ronnell is next in line who's most explosive and most athletic.
Video by Eddie Radosevich.