Bohls: Oklahoma gambles on Venables; Texas reaping rewards from NIL legislation
While I got ya, here are nine things and one crazy prediction:
1. Venerable Venables. Oklahoma’s certainly got a thing for assistant coaches. The Sooners hire or promote one after another to be their head football coach. Brent Venables is the latest, and even though he’s widely hailed as the best defensive coordinator in college football, it’s a gamble. Athletic director Joe Castiglione struck gold when he plucked defensive coordinator Bob Stoops out of Florida and found the next Barry Switzer. But that doesn’t guarantee Venables will have the same success. OU might have been better served if it had landed a proven commodity like defensive-minded Baylor head coach Dave Aranda, even though he’s soft-spoken and had no Sooners ties, or an offensive wizard like Josh Heupel for resurrecting Tennessee even though he was once fired as OC in Norman. … Count me as a big fan of Venables, who had been the highest paid assistant in the college game at $2.1 million a year. That said, Lincoln Riley’s exit is a win for Texas because it will be hard to Venables to replicate his predecessor’s success, much less top it. … Venables said at his introductory press conference that “Oklahoma is the measuring stick in college football.” No, it’s not, Brent. Not even close. Alabama is. After them, it’s Clemson. Then Ohio State. You got to win a natty in the last 20 years to even be in that conversation. … It’s intriguing that Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Florida hired two coordinators and a Group of Five head coach. That should tell you it’s a shallow pool of proven FBS head coaches. As good as I think Venables is, I expect a Sooners drop-off, and we’ve already seen three recruits decommit. SEC karma takes another bite.
2. NIL means everything. Now that NIL has basically legalized cheating in recruiting, exactly what effect will it have on the college game? It already has had some. Cheating is no longer under the table. It's on the table. Quinn Ewers reportedly pocketed $1.4 million from an autograph czar before even playing a down. So the Southlake Carroll quarterback plays two snaps at Ohio State, sees freshman C.J. Stroud emerge as a Heisman candidate and leaves. I can’t really blame Ewers. He sees the handwriting on the wall, saw some handwriting on big checks and now could easily end up at Texas. I’ll be stunned if the one-time Texas commit doesn’t become a Longhorn for real this time. He needs a big-time environment, hungers for it, thrives on it. Oh, and the Horns do host Alabama next September. Sarkisian can’t be scared of having too many quarterbacks on his roster and can’t worry about hurt feelings. Heck, bring in another if you have to. This clearly speaks to the difficulty of finding, landing, developing and even keeping quarterbacks. … Name, image and likeness might be the best thing to ever happen to college football players, this side of the transfer portal or coeds. Apparently, boosters will pay each Longhorn offensive lineman $50 large every year, but not as an inducement of any kind. Wink, wink. Will they pay even more for good offensive linemen? … Let’s be clear. Cheating is fine now. Actually, there may not be anything that’s considered cheating now. It will change the game forever — good and bad — but it could lead to locker room dissension, outright bidding wars by schools and widespread tampering by coaches and more unethical agents.
3. Ol’ State U. Another thing is obvious. Hardly any player other than one here or there — think Luke Brockermeyer with his bloodlines, for example — wants to go to State U because he loves the school. Players sign with coaches, follow coaches (Riley) and stay or leave because of coaches. It’s even more pronounced now. Trust me, if Nick Saban announces today he’s leaving for, say, Rice, the Owls will have a top-10 recruiting class next year. … Is it just a matter of time until a restaurant or car dealership or plumber out and out pays a player for touchdowns and sacks to really push the envelope? And that, my friends, will really open Pandora’s Box although in reality it’s already been opened. … If Matthew McConaughey is Texas’ Minister of Culture, does he deserve some of the blame for 5-7? He’s sure there for the good times. … Nothing against Kyle Flood, but Steve Sarkisian should consider hiring Air Force line coach Steed Lobotzke or Army line coach Saga Tuitele. They're first and second in the country in rushing yards at 342 and 302 a game.
4. Top dog. Or bear. Aranda is my national coach of the year. Hands down. The Baylor coach is a plus-nine in turnaround from last season, going from 2-7 in his debut year after having spring ball and summer activity canceled because of the pandemic to a transformative 11-2 and a Big 12 championship after being picked to finish eighth in the 10-team league. Baylor finished the regular season No. 7 in the CFP standings and No. 6 in the Top 25. Wow. Backup quarterback Blake Shapen went 2-0 in replacing Gerry Bohanon. Seven Bears made first- or second-team all-conference, and the Big 12's defensive player of the year (safety Jalen Pitre), offensive lineman of the year (Connor Galvin), defensive newcomer of the year (defensive lineman Siaki Ika), special teams player of the year (returner Trestan Ebner) were all Bears. … My top five for that award after Aranda are Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, Houston’s Dana Holgorsen, UTSA’s Jeff Traylor and Michigan's Jim Harbaugh. You can give the award to Saban every single year.
5. On the flip side. The five worst coaching performances, in order, came from North Carolina's Mack Brown, Texas' Steve Sarkisian, Indiana’s Tom Allen, LSU’s Ed Orgeron and a tie between Florida’s Dan Mullen and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher. I include the latter in an 8-4 season only because he and his players and fan base were openly talking national championship ambitions all summer. Yes, it’s a far, far cry from the Longhorns’ 5-7, bowl-less season, but I think any objective person sees a far greater wealth of talent in maroon and white than orange and white. The next two NFL drafts should bear that out. … I’d also add Iowa State’s Matt Campbell on that list and wonder if big-school suitors were a little scared off because his heavily favored Iowa State Cyclones disappointed greatly in 2021. … Can’t help but wonder if Fickell is at Cincinnati for the long haul if he didn’t leave for one of the many high-profile job openings this month. Makes me wonder if Fickell is waiting for Ryan Day to bolt to the NFL or Fickell himself will do so. … Remember what we wrote last week about the lack of job security in the NFL. Carolina’s Matt Rhule fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady just two years after he was the toast of college football in his big role with undefeated LSU.
6. Too fake. NCAA Rules Committee, please, please address the fake slide by Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett when he pretended to fall to the turf, then righted himself and ran for a 58-yard touchdown. He clearly started to slide. To me, he deserves an unsportsmanlike conduct flag or, at a minimum, a delay of game penalty. Is it not similar to a punt returner signaling for a fair catch, then trying to run with the ball? … What was Aranda thinking when he went for it on fourth down inside his own 40 and leading Oklahoma State by 15 in the third quarter? The move backfired when the attempt failed and the Cowboys scored their first touchdown to narrow the deficit to 21-13. … Did you notice Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey bowing to the crowd at Mercedes Benz Stadium after his second quarter touchdown reception? Big 12 refs would have flagged the Bulldog. Right, Marcus Washington? … Should Kirby Smart have benched Stetson Bennett IV and gone with J.T. Daniels at some point in Georgia’s loss to Alabama in Saturday’s SEC championship? I think so. … And why didn’t Mike Gundy give backup quarterback Shane Illingworth a look as Oklahoma State looked inept for almost the entire game against Baylor? … I got to think if Aranda wasn’t the happiest guy at AT&T Stadium on Saturday, it was Bob Bowlsby, since it allowed the league commissioner to gloat over the fact that Oklahoma and Texas — traitors in his mind — didn’t qualify for the championship. And come to think of it, no one feels sorry for the Sooners, who got jilted by Lincoln Riley when he left for USC, because the rest of the Big 12 knows what it’s like to be left at the altar. … Love that the Ravens’ John Harbaugh went for two with 20 seconds left to play, partly because he said he had run out of healthy cornerbacks. Huge proponent of going for two in the final minute. A team’s got to make a play sometime. What better than to make it when the opponent has no chance to counter. … Still thinking back to the Iron Bowl when Saban said he told his team at halftime “to have fun.” Has he been captured by Martians?
7. Kill zone. Texas volleyball continues its journey to the Final Four by hosting a dangerous Washington team that's loaded with super seniors like 6-4 outside hitter Samantha Dreschel as well as junior outside hitter Claire Hoffman, who had 20 kills in a three-set sweep of Hawaii to punch its ticket to the Sweet 16. Both of these teams were victims to national champion Kentucky last year, and both won their conferences this season. The Huskies (26-4) have been to the regionals nine times in the last 10 years and to two straight Elite Eights. … If you haven’t seen the Longhorns play in person at Gregory Gym, you’re missing out. It’s some of the most entertaining action and high-quality volleyball you’d ever want to see.
8. Scattershooting. While wondering whatever happened to former Longhorns quarterback Alan Lowry.
9. On the couch: Watched the star-studded “Love Actually” with two of my sons Sunday as we continue our tradition of Christmas movies. Here’s my top five in order: “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “White Christmas,” “Family Man,” (Nick’s best movie); “Polar Express,” and “Love Actually.” “Elf” is next. We’ve watched the first two movies on my list on Christmas Eve every year for 48 years.
Crazy prediction: Texas will finish in the top five nationally in recruiting this year.