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Orange Bowl Preview: Q&A with Crimson and Cream Machine Part II

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We're rejoined by Matt Hofeld of SB Nation's Crimson and Cream Machine. We discuss OU coaching, improvements, and worries.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

STS: I'm sure Clemson fans would love to hear your thoughts on former OU DC Brent Venables. Without much line of sight into the situation in Norman at the time, it seemed like Bob Stoops foolishly pushed Venables away. Were OU fans upset about the situation at the time? What's the current situation at DC look like?

CCM: I've always been a fan of Venables and hated seeing him leave Norman. That said, I think he suffered an emotional disconnect after the tragic passing of Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box in the spring of 2011. Venables was extremely close with all of his linebackers and honestly wasn't the same after the tragic loss. Once Mike Stoops rejoined Oklahoma's coaching staff, in 2012, things just weren't clicking among the coaches and it was evident on the field. I think Venables decided to "take one for the team" and start over in a fresh location.

He and Bob Stoops remain close and have even vacationed together since the separation. Stoops has since completely restructured the defensive coaching staff and what had been a weak spot on the team last season became a strength in 2015. Bringing Kerry Cooks in from Notre Dame to coach the defensive backs has made the biggest difference on the defensive unit. The Sooners had the top secondary in the Big 12 this season to go along with a Top 20 rush defense. Suddenly Mike Stoops looks a lot more like a genius than the goat he appeared to be in 2014.

STS: I recall murmur over getting rid of Bob Stoops after last year's bad loss in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Is that kind of brushed aside as a silly overreaction at this point or is there still some level of frustration with Stoops in Norman?

CCM: I don't think that was ever a legitimate thing. There's always a very small portion of the Oklahoma fanbase that call for heads to roll after losses, but for the most part OU fans appreciate Bob Stoops and what he's done for this program. He averages a conference championship every other season and has put the Sooners in position to play for a national championship five times now. To ask for his departure is just beyond silly.

The frustration last year was something that built all season long and wasn't just isolated to the Russell Athletic Bowl. Fans were seeking change in the staff. The offense had become stagnant and the defensive secondary was horrendous. Keep in mind that the team had just come off a monumental upset of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and expectations were extremely high going into 2014. Stoops had to say goodbye to some long time assistants but it was absolutely necessary and you can't question the results.

STS: Some have said memories of last year's Russell Athletic Bowl can fuel revenge and help the Sooners. Do you think there is any substance to this?

CCM: Again, it's not just last year's bowl game that's a motivation for the team. The entire 2015 season has been a mission of redemption for the Sooners and it has served as motivation since September 5th. Oklahoma has beaten the teams they lost to in 2014 by an average of 25 points this season. They were better than the way they played in 2014 and are out to try and redeem themselves in 2015.

STS: Aside from the change at QB, what one OU player or position has improved the most from last year and presumably would improve the Sooners' chances of winning in Miami?

CCM: On offense it's been depth at receiver. Last year it was a one-man show with Sterling Shepard and once he went down Oklahoma's passing game disappeared. The additions of JUCO transfers Jarvis Baxter and Dede Westbrook, along with the development of senior receiver Durron Neal and redshirt freshman tight end Mark Andrews have given OU the depth at receiver that the desperately needed.

On defense it's been the rise of corner Jordan Thomas to play opposite of Zack Sanchez and really secure both sides of the field. The addition of JUCO nickel back Will Johnson (one of the players who took the field after the Texas loss) has proved to be a huge addition to Oklahoma's secondary as well.

STS: We had you close last Q&A session by telling us some reasons to believe Oklahoma would win. Now we'll ask the opposite. What worries you most in this matchup with Clemson?

CCM: Honestly, I'm worried about Oklahoma's offensive line vs. Clemson's defensive line. The Tigers are athletic and physical up front and Texas was able to use that combination to dominate Oklahoma's offensive line back in October. The Sooners appear to have made significant strides upfront since then but this will be a huge test and also a huge worry for fans.