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OU football: Brent Venables hired as Sooners' next head coach

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Brent Venables

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, left, gives instructions during an NCAA college football bowl practice session on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, in Clemson, S.C. Clemson is to play Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla. on Dec. 29. 

Brent Venables is returning to Norman.

Clemson's defensive coordinator, who previously coached at Oklahoma from 1999-2011, has agreed to become the Sooners' 23rd head coach, the university announced Sunday night.

The Athletic's Bruce Feldman first reported Venables' hiring was a done deal. ESPN's Chris Low confirmed the report and OU athletic director Joe Castiglione tweeted the lock emoji, seemingly signifying the Sooners got their guy.

OU's brass made its way to Clemson to meet with Venables and finalize a deal earlier Sunday. Tigernet, a Clemson football and recruiting website, tracked the group around South Carolina from the airport to Venables' lake house.

"This is an incredibly special opportunity," Venables said in a statement released by OU. "Julie and I and our family are extremely grateful for the belief in us — and certainly in me — to be the next head coach at Oklahoma, one of the winningest and most tradition-rich programs in college football history. Our memories from Norman, where all four of our children were born, have been nothing but great. 

"We're looking forward to making another decade-plus of incredible memories as we transition to a new era of Oklahoma football, especially with the opportunity and the challenge to join the SEC, the premier conference in all of college football. Joe Castiglione, President Harroz and the Board of Regents have given us incredible support that equals the best of the best in our sport."

Low, Action Network's Brett McMurphy and Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger all reported early Sunday morning that the Sooners had zeroed in on Venables. Low and McMurphy also report that Mississippi offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, an OU alum, is expected to become Venables' offensive coordinator.

Venables replaces Lincoln Riley, who agreed to become USC’s next head coach on Nov. 28 after coaching OU since 2017. Bob Stoops, who coached OU from 1999-2016, has been acting as interim coach following Riley’s departure.

Venables has been Clemson’s defensive coordinator since 2012, and helped Dabo Swinney’s Tigers to the 2016 and 2018 national championships. Before his time at Clemson, Venables was OU’s co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach from 1999-2003, and was the sole defensive coordinator from 2004-11.

From 1993-98, Venables coached at Kansas State before Stoops, who previously worked at K-State, brought him to Norman. Venables played at Garden City Community College from 1989-90 and Kansas State from 1991-92.

With Venables at the helm, Clemson has been ranked among the nation’s Top 25 defenses every year since 2013. In 2014, the Tigers ranked first nationally in total defense, allowing only 260.8 yards per game.

Venables won the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's best assistant coach, in 2016. His contract with the Tigers runs through the 2025-26 season and pays him $2.5 million annually, according to The Athletic's Grace Raynor.

"There's no question we are equipped to compete at the very highest level and attract the best players from across the country," Venables said of his return to the Sooners. "The OU logo has never been stronger."

Sports editor

Mason Young is The Daily's sports editor and covers OU football. He was previously assistant sports editor and has covered OU women's gym, wrestling and former Sooners in the NFL. Email Mason at masyoung@ou.edu and follow him on Twitter @Mason_Young_0

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