Isaiah Coe a big building block of OU culture under Brent Venables

On3 imageby:Bob Przybylo02/27/24

BPrzybylo

There were a bunch of names OU fans thought they were going to remember for a long time in the 2021 class. Go down that list and see the five-star names, the four-star pieces that some thought were going to bring the Sooners back to championship glory.

Not a lot of them made it through the years in Norman.

And then there was a junior college defensive tackle that, honestly, the staff wasn’t even sure if they wanted to bring in the fold.

That’s how the Isaiah Coe story started at OU. Started, definitely not how it ended. The conclusion was with him waving the flag after beating Texas last season. It ended with him bearhugging head coach Brent Venables and becoming a vital piece to the OU puzzle, to OU culture.

It wasn’t about the beginning, but who knew it would ever end like that?

“But you know, just being here and being around people how much they love me here, how much they appreciated me,” said Coe in an exclusive interview with SoonerScoop. “I got nothing but love for the state of Oklahoma, especially the University of Oklahoma. Definitely something special for me and for my family.”

A junior college prospect with literally no ties to OU or Norman or anything. After Lincoln Riley’s sudden departure, Coe could have taken off, too. Nobody would have blamed him.

Instead? Coe stayed the course. He stayed true and loyal to the Sooners and became a big presence in the locker room in 2022 and 2023.

A lot of that is because of the belief Venables showed in Coe. For whatever reason, those two hit it off right from the start. A bond was built almost instantaneously. You can hear it in Coe’s voice that this relationship goes way beyond player and coach.

“Brent Venables is like my best friend,” Coe said. “Like me and him have a very close, personal relationship. That’s really like my guy. So I was just so appreciative of him coming in. And when we first met, like he believed in me and right from the jump.”

Coe is an example of everything Venables preached from the first day he arrived. Coe is a much better football player, for sure. But he is a different person, a better person because of his time at OU. And OU football has been better because Coe was part of the program.

He was there for the coaching chaos. Then the disappointing 6-7, but things got back on track with the 10-win season in 2023.

All those who stayed and persevered have a hand in that. Coe was absolutely one of those guys.

“I appreciate y’all for the three years you took me and my family in,” Coe said. “Happy that I could come in here and help change the narrative of the Oklahoma defense. I’m proud of the work we put in with my teammates.

“We really felt like we made an impact on the field and off the field, being in the community and helping people that need help. This will forever be home to me. Super thankful, super grateful for the opportunities.”

OU Exit Interview: Isaiah Coe

OU commitment?

They didn’t even want me at first. Backstory, so when I committed, my coach was telling me to wait at the time because they were waiting to maybe get somebody else. So he was telling me to not post my commitment, but you know Lincoln Riley had that eye thing, you know, I didn’t know nothing about Oklahoma. I didn’t know how they operated, any of that stuff. When I had committed, they didn’t even know if they were going to accept me at first. It was this big thing.

I just felt like I didn’t want to go back on my word or anything. So that’s where I really felt like I wanted to stick in my commitment. So really, when that happened and I just kind of waited it out to see and then they finally took me.

But you know, just being here and being around people how much they love me here, how much they appreciated me. I got nothing but love for the state of Oklahoma, especially the University of Oklahoma. Definitely something special for me and for my family.

Lincoln Riley bolts?

It was crazy. I’m pretty sure you’ve heard you’ve heard the story already. Yeah, told us right after the game. It was like he’s not going anywhere. He said that like word-for-word. It was like I’m not taking the job at LSU. I was like, cool. It was a regular Sunday, but like we don’t usually meet on Sundays. Right? So then we had a team meeting on Sunday and came in and he was like… and then we actually found out through our phone that he was leaving. He came in, you know, he was crying and emotional.

He basically said he had accepted the job and University of Southern California. So nothing we can do at that point, but it was definitely an awkward situation because no one knew what was happening.

Coaching chaos time?

It was definitely difficult because obviously, you want somebody with experience. You just want somebody you can you can have a relationship with. And obviously, you just want somebody that knows football and knows the game, knows what they’re talking about. So it definitely was a big factor for me and myself. Just learning the ropes of college football and how things work. I really wanted to have that good bonding relationship and just have the right knowledge to take me where I wanted to go. That definitely was a win for me.

Coach Todd Bates?

I had heard of him before when he was at Clemson, just knowing that he had produced first-round defensive line talent when he was there. I knew he used to be the d-line coach at Clemson, so I knew he had to have some impact in producing them. He knows what he’s talking about. He could have the same impact with them that now he could have with me.

Bates’ development?

He just made me more knowledgeable. Understanding of situations, backfields, just making me an overall smarter player to understand where the ball is going. Understanding how to read if they’re going one way or run block or pass block or all the type of tendencies they can show. Then he just made me more of a technician, focusing on the technique and how to beat a block, how to just be dominant at the defensive tackle position.

BV?

Brent Venables is like my best friend. Like me and him have a very close, personal relationship. Like, that’s really like my guy. So I was just so appreciative of him coming in. And when we first met, like he believed in me and right from the jump. He saw me on film, even though I played just here and there. Before? He said he saw me on film. And he believed in me right off the jump. So just him coming in at first having that confidence in me that I can come in here and run his defense at a higher level.

It kind of It felt different, just having somebody you’ve never met, never had a conversation with, never even seen the man in person before. Our very first time sitting down, he comes with utmost confidence in me. So it just felt like, you know, why not give him a chance? We just kept going and kept going and built this special relationship with a special bond. He’s told me this and other coaches have told me this. He’s like, I’m probably like one of his favorite players. I don’t know if he’s ever gonna say that. But he’s definitely like told me like, I’m one of his favorite players he’s ever been around. I definitely have a special relationship that I value a lot.

Turning things around in 2023?

Man, it was a blessing. But we kind of knew going into this, starting in the winter workouts. We kind of knew what was going on because like, we were losing games, but we know we were right there. Or we weren’t getting blown out besides the Texas game and TCU game. We were always so close. Like we’re always a play or two away. We easily could have had a 10-win season so we just always knew that if we did the little things right and corrected small errors, we could have been better.

Favorite moments?

Obviously, I can say the Texas game, but the Nebraska game in 2021 – that was probably the best atmosphere we had. There were so many things that happened in that game going from when we were losing all that all of that. We had the blocked field goal. We had DJ interception and just the whole just the atmosphere of the game knowing the background and history of the game. All that leading up to the game. That is probably the one game I’ll always remember.

Senior day?

I’m just a kid from Chicago and come to Oklahoma and them taking a chance on a juco kid. Before I even got here, some people were already questioning me and all types of things. How things played out, I’m just super thankful. I have so much gratitude for Coach Venables, Coach Bates, Coach Chavis, Coach Valai, Coach Roof, Coach Lebby, Coach Finley, Coach Jones, all these guys, man. Coach Schmitty, Coach Reggie, Coach Scotty, Coach James, man, just everybody that really poured into my life. I’m forever thankful because Lord knows what I could be doing right now if I never came and took this chance.

Final Alamo Bowl moment?

One, we lost, for sure. That probably hurt the most. Just wishing that it had ended different. I was hurting for my coach the time and effort they put into the game and the game plan and just me and my other seniors, we just want to go out with the win. It being the last time on the field together and we just wanted to win.

Future of the OU defensive line?

They gonna be some dogs. They’re gonna be ready for the SEC. DJ (Terry) was already in the SEC so he’s already given them tips on how everything works out there. He can definitely help the young guys coming in as a guy that has stepped into a bigger role. I feel like you have Gracen Halton, Davon Sears, Ashton Sanders, Markus Strong. Then, of course, David Stone and you got the freshmen coming in, Jayden Jackson, Stone.

Feel cheated not getting that SEC chance?

You know, I think about it. Obviously, the competitor in me would love to play in the SEC. But you know, I feel like it is their turn. You know, it’s the young guys’ time. They know they’ve been here and they waited their turn. So I really feel like they can go out there and prove it. Anyway, I can still help, I definitely can. I know the defense. I know how to work, so I can definitely help them anywhere. Always tell them that I’m a call away. But you know, obviously I would love to play in the SEC because you know they claim it is the best conference. And obviously you want to play against the best, so I definitely think about it sometime. But I want the young guys to get their time.

Final message?

I appreciate y’all for the three years you took me and my family in. Happy that I could come in here and help change the narrative of the Oklahoma defense. I’m proud of the work we put in with my teammates. We really felt like we made an impact on the field and off the field, being in the community and helping people that need help. This will forever be home to me. Super thankful, super grateful for the opportunities.

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