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December 3, 2010Oklahoma's Brent Venables heads into the Big 12 Championship with a certain amount of uncertainty defensively. Will Taylor Martinez be healthy enough to make a difference in this one? Will Nebraska continue to use Rex Burkhead as much as Cody Green if Martinez can't go? The one thing Venables knows is he'll be facing a physical Nebraska offense with the ability to break long runs against anyone.
A couple of weeks ago, you talked about how Austin Box was consistent and solid. He's made a couple of big plays here in the last two weeks.
Yeah, I think he made as big of a play, if not the biggest play, in the Baylor game. He got the tempo going, and he really set up 7 points, on a short field, for the offense. Obviously, he's doing really well, he's playing with a lot of confidence. He's executing calls and doing a really good job of doing his job. That's been the nature at that position. I've said it for a long time, if you just do your job and execute, then those linebackers should make all kinds of big plays. Fortunately, for us, he's been preparing himself and he's playing really well for us right now.
Speaking of doing your job, I guess we have to ask you about the rumors involving you and the head coaching job at Miami. Have you been contacted at all?
No, I'm not interested in any job. I'm not looking at any job and I have no intentions to visit with anybody. I've got a great job and we have a big time challenge this week. There's nothing to really talk about.
Getting back to the defense that you installed last week, how hard was that to do in one week?
We've done it, we had it in all of fall camp. In our long-yardage package we have a lot of 3-4. The principals are there and the foundation was there. We certainly didn't invent it, by any stretch of the imagination. I think it was Larry Lacewell that said, 'They didn't invent the 3-4, Mrs. Selmon did (laughing).' But it worked out well for us. I think guys executed well and we played with good gap integrity. Jeremy Beal helped make that work as much as anybody, with his ability to cover and pressure out of it. Not to mention how well he handled everything mentally.
You've seemed to have risen to genius status after Saturday's performance.
It's amazing how that seems to work, huh?
Two things you did really well as a defense was; you kept them from making big plays and you made a ton of turnovers. Can you talk about that combination and how you must have been really pleased to see it work?
Again, I think our positioning was really good. Guys had a terrific week of practice, I think Coach Stoops talked about it. He's not a guy who tends to mix a lot of words, but after our Thursday practice, he said it was one of the best Thursdays we had ever had. Guys were excited to practice because they knew exactly what we were doing and what was coming.
They really did a terrific job in preparing. And again, they played with discipline, in a very tight situation down the stretch as well. I was as proud of our guys, in any moment of that game, when OSU came out of halftime and scored on that first drive. Then we went three straight series where we forced them to get off the field. I thought they really played hard and with great poise.
Quinton Carter said that Box has been a big catalyst for you defensively. Do you get that same sense?
I think it's the consistency that he plays with. Guys aren't pressing when the simple things are breaking down like gap integrity, containing on pressure and not being in the middle when you should. When that happens, everybody starts to press and tries to make plays. When you try to do too much, and try to get outside the confines of the defense, bad things happen. Again, it can work in your favor when guys just do the simple, basic things. Conversely, when small things start to break down then it can snowball on you in a hurry.
Is Nebraska going to be a 'back to the big guy' challenge for you, with their down-hill running ability?
Yeah, it's very physical, much different from Saturday. It's every bit the same type of challenge, in regards to the mental and physical stress, but it's a different type in regards to their personnel. Plus, they have a running quarterback, last week we didn't have that. This week, there are a lot of two-tight ends, two-back sets. They can spread you out and do the same type of things that OSU could do, but this will be a big-time physical challenge. We're going to need some more beef in there.
Can you talk about Travis Lewis, what he's meant and what his role will be on Saturday?
Travis has been a great leader for us, he's been an emotional leader. He invests the same every week. He's full-tilt, all-in and empties the tank. I could use a lot of different phrases to describe him. I've been so incredibly pleased with him, not being satisfied by anything, wanting more and being his own worst critic. That's how he's able to play at a pretty good level since he's been here. He gives us a great deal of confidence as a staff, he's just an extension of us.
Can you comment on Tony Jefferson being tabbed as one of the newcomer's of the year, defensively?
He's overrated, I told him that somebody got robbed (laughing). No, I'm kidding. You know, he's not anywhere close to the player that he's going to be. He's instinctive, explosive and has a great feel for the game. He gives you great range outside, and he's just learning how to play. Obviously, he didn't have the benefits of an out-of-season between learning the x's-and'o's, and also working with Schmitty over an offseason.
He's just scratching the surface of what he's capable of being. The key is to stay hungry, want more and really work at all of the small things that will help you become a great player. If he does that, and it will come with maturity, then He'll make huge leaps and bounds as a player.
Do you ever see him as a regular safety in your defense or do you think he stays a nickel back?
I don't know, he's really good where he is and I think he has a chance to be great where he is. That's the big dilemma, and we'll work that out as time goes on. A lot of it depends on how other players progress as well. It's just like Ronnell (Lewis). Ronnell can be a really fine linebacker, but out of both need and looking at the future with the advantage he possesses by going against big, slow-footed guys up front, we've got him up front. We're trying to find a way for everybody, collectively, to help us the most, as well as help themselves. So that will just work through in time.
The last time you guys played a power-rush team was Stanford in the Sun Bowl. Ronnell had a big game that day, and he seems to be coming on strong here at the end?
Yeah, we'll need him to be that way, and he won't be alone. I think you're seeing the same type of team that we saw against Stanford at the end of the year. Without the quarterback, I get it. Because we were glad that he didn't play because he's a great player. But Nebraska has that type of physicality offensively.
Our guys played a really good Stanford team, and we beat a good Stanford team because of the physicality that we played with. This game will require exactly that. You know, sometimes you can get fooled thinking that playing those spread teams doesn't require you to be physical, but it does. We tackled real well the other night because we were physical, we were in good position and we finished. We didn't throw shoulders or duck our heads on the perimeters. With a lot of OSU's perimeter screens, you have to be physical and win the one-on-ones. You need to be physical every week to play well, and obviously this week is a whole different animal.
Speaking of that, who is your strongside backer this week?
(Laughing) It just depends on what they give you. They have a three-tight package with two backs where you might have two strong backers. There will be a combination of Joseph Ibiloye and Daniel Franklin.