OU hires Alabama cornerbacks coach to complete football staff

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FILE - Brent Venables, Oklahoma associate head coach/defensive coordinator/linebackers, is pictured during Oklahoma football media day in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011. A person with knowledge of the situation tells The Associated Press that Oklahoma is targeting Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables to be its new head coach. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

FILE – Brent Venables, Oklahoma associate head coach/defensive coordinator/linebackers, is pictured during Oklahoma football media day in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011. A person with knowledge of the situation tells The Associated Press that Oklahoma is targeting Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables to be its new head coach. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – The University of Oklahoma’s new head football coach has announced that he has made the final hire to complete his staff.

After being hired as OU’s next head football coach, Brent Venables made it clear that he planned to reshape the intensity of the program.

Last month, Venables announced that the Sooners would retain inside receivers coach Cale Gundy, offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, tight ends coach Joe Jon Finley and running backs coach DeMarco Murray.

Oklahoma also officially announced the hires of Jeff Lebby as offensive coordinator and Ted Roof as defensive coordinator.

Jerry Schmidt will return to Norman as the director of sports enhancement and strength and conditioning. Former defensive assistant Brandon Hall will be the Sooners’ new safeties coach, and former Clemson defensive assistant Miguel Chavis is going to coach OU’s defensive ends.

On Tuesday, Venables announced the hiring of Jay Valai as OU’s new co-defensive coordinator/ pass defensive coach.

Valai will be responsible for coaching cornerbacks and nickelbacks.

“Jay is one of the up-and-coming coaches in college football. He brings a tremendous amount of passion and energy to the job, as well as a real love for the game and for relationship-building. He’s experienced the game collegiately at the highest level as a player at Wisconsin and has gained terrific coaching experience on the NFL and college levels. He’ll bring a lot of great ideas from a scheme standpoint, he’s one of the best teachers in the game and he’s got a great reputation as a recruiter. He’s going to be a head coach sooner rather than later. Sometimes you know when guys have ‘it,’ and Jay certainly has it.

I met him on the recruiting trail years ago and immediately connected with him. Our philosophies meshed and I really liked his passion for the game and his desire to be a great leader. So we exchanged numbers and stayed in touch. He loves his craft and is mature beyond his years regarding X’s and O’s and the teaching of all defensive positions. I’ve just been drawn to his thirst for knowledge and his great sense of humility. He asked me if I minded serving as one of his mentors and I was just honored. Loved his hunger and toughness and how he had a good edge about him. We set time aside to clinic on the phone or even in person, and would also talk a lot about people, relationships and things like that. A lot of our values aligned as husbands and fathers, and certainly as coaches in this profession. Really excited for Jay and his wife and children to get to Norman. Our players will love his expertise, his passion and his ability to connect.”

OU head coach Brent Venables

This past season, Valai spent his time as the cornerbacks coach for Alabama, helping the Tide to a 13-2 record, an SEC title, and an appearance in the CFP National Championship.

“Coach Venables and I met on the road recruiting years ago and he has always been awesome to me as a mentor. We both love football so much and I’ve loved talking about the nuances of the game with him. Just going back and forth with ideas and thoughts, scheme adjustments and so on. We just really clicked. But I also really admire his passion. That’s one thing you can’t hide in life, and Coach Venables is one of the most passionate and authentic human beings you could ever meet. 

Alabama has been awesome and Nick Saban is the G.O.A.T. I learned so much working under him and we have a tremendous relationship. He and Miss Terry have been amazing to my family and me. But to get the opportunity to be closer to home working for an Oklahoma program I grew up watching while living in Dallas and to work with Brent and be a cook in the kitchen with him is special. I’m excited. It’s beyond a blessing to be part of Sooner Nation.”

Jay Valai

Valai served as cornerbacks coach at Texas in 2020 and Rutgers in 2019.

In 2018, he served as a defensive quality control role and an assistant defensive backs coach for the Kansas City Chiefs.

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