Departures put pressure on defense

? Brent Venables knows the unexpected could happen at any moment, and he wants his defense to be prepared.

So when Oklahoma dismissed starting quarterback Rhett Bomar this week after an internal investigation showed he had broken NCAA rules, it was just another example for Venables to provide to his unit.

Be it an injury, a suspension or even worse, the Sooners must be prepared to succeed in any position.

“We need to play great defense,” Venables said Friday at Oklahoma’s media day. “For us to be any good as a team pre-Rhett Bomar, post-Rhett Bomar, with Rhett Bomar, it’s irrelevant. It’s about us and our side of the ball, getting the ball back, playing great defense, keeping people out of the end zone, eliminating big plays, all those types of things.

“We always talk about there’s a lot of things that we can’t control. This just happens to be another one of those things. It had nothing to do with us and our side of the ball.”

Bomar and offensive lineman J.D. Quinn were dismissed from the Sooners on Wednesday. The university has said the players took pay for work they did not perform at a Norman car dealership.

And while the dismissals leave the offense without its starting signal-caller and a potential starter on the line, Oklahoma’s defenders are prepared to help out by limiting opponents.

“If we keep them out of the end zone and they can’t score, then we can’t lose,” said defensive end Larry Birdine, who’ll return after missing last season with a torn left biceps muscle.

Oklahoma’s defense was sixth in the Big 12 in points allowed last season and gave up the third-fewest yards. But in conference games only, coach Bob Stoops pointed out, the Sooners gave up the fewest yards.

“Is it good enough for our standards how we played? No,” Stoops said.

That’s because the Sooners led the Big 12 in total defense each of the previous two years, when Oklahoma made back-to-back runs to the BCS title game.

“Expectations are always high, the bar is always set high,” said linebacker Rufus Alexander, who led the Sooners in tackles last season.