NORMAN — Brent Venables’ defense will be bolstered significantly next season.

Since Oklahoma was invited to the Alamo Bowl, kicking off college football’s ever-moving transfer portal carousel, a number of veterans have chosen to forego professional opportunities in order to return to Norman in 2024.

Linebacker Danny Stutsman changed his mind, and he’ll be joined by safety Billy Bowman and defensive linemen Ethan Downs, Da’Jon Terry, and Jacob Lacey for OU’s first season in the SEC.

Venables wants to keep players in his program for the long term, building a team that can rely on seniors and fifth-year players, and now he’ll have a slew of those players forming the backbone of his defense in 2024.

“My experience has been, you know, the older you are, the more you’ve played, the better you play,” Venables said in a statement on Friday. “And guys who are in their fourth, fifth, or sixth year just play more consistently.” Their emphasis is slightly different. They are not as easily distracted.

LATEST NEWS: Oklahoma's key player reveal why he will focused in
LATEST NEWS: Oklahoma’s key player reveal why he will focused in

“These are guys that are coming back and they’re focused on mission, you know, the mission of this program and certainly on the team and then themselves.”

According to Pro Football Focus, OU will return 2,512 snaps of experience from the 2023 regular season between Stutsman, Bowman, Downs, Lacey, and Terry.

While the returning players in Venables’ defense will be crucial, Oklahoma is equally excited about the impact those veterans will have off the field.

“That’s a great group of guys that are incredibly committed,” he said. “They enjoy being in the locker room. They adore one another. They enjoy both competing and working. That’s a fantastic recipe.

“So in terms of transitioning (to the SEC), we have some good — all three levels have a lot of experience coming back.” And then finding a group of guys with the right leadership and focus.”

David Stone, regarded as the best defensive tackle prospect in the country, will join the ranks of Nigel Smith II, Danny Okoye, Jayden Jackson, and Wyatt Gilmore.

Venables understands that in order to compete in 2024 and beyond, his team must be strong in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Getting those guys online as soon as possible will be aided by veteran leadership, which Oklahoma will have in abundance defensively.

“You want a lot of competitive depth,” Venables explained. “You want to be physically strong. That is the object of the game. So no, it isn’t — the SEC is those things. There’s a lot of skill and depth here. The lines of scrimmage exist in reality.

“If you’ve been coaching football, offense or defense, you’re gonna try to build your team or your program or your locker room on the lines of scrimmage and dominating there first.”

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