ACC: Dan Brooks

Clemson goes into the season in the national championship conversation, but if there is one overriding question about this team it is whether it has a championship-level defense.

How do the Tigers get there? Defensive coordinator Brent Venables should know, considering he coached a national-title-winning defense at Oklahoma in 2000 and won seven Big 12 championships during his time with the Sooners. When asked what it takes to reach a championship-caliber level, Venables said:

"It comes down to leadership, toughness, attitude, guys continuing to develop. Will our guys hold each other accountable? The best teams I’ve been associated with are player-driven. They have a special chemistry about them, a special focus, a willingness to be worked, a willingness to be coached. There’s a lot of time between now and next January. We’ve got as good a chance as anybody that’s out there. Do we have enough talent and ability? Yeah, but there are a lot of other intangibles. They have to come together, and there’s a lot of work to be done between now and when we kick off. I don’t really like to talk about all those things at the end. You have to earn it and earn it one game at a time and one day at a time. I’m a firm believer in that. That’s how I’m wired, that’s the family I’ve been brought up in this profession. It’s about the work you put in every day. If you do, you’ll have a chance. If you don’t, you won’t."

Venables is not the only coach on staff who has won a national championship. Dabo Swinney won one in 1992 as an Alabama player -- and current Clemson assistant Danny Pearman was on that Crimson Tide staff. Assistant Dan Brooks won one with Tennessee in 1998, too. Coaches on this staff have been through the drama, and the pressure, of trying to make a run at a national championship.

But it's not something any of them has even discussed with his players.

"To me, you don’t sit and promote that," Venables said. "You try to be as good as you can be today. Having an opportunity to compete for a national championship, you’ve got to win your division. You’ve got to win the opener. There are so many things that have to take place, and the good fortune you have to have to get to that point. When you start focusing on the wrong things instead of controlling the things you can control today, you’re setting yourself up for failure."

Dabo Swinney invests in his program

February, 16, 2012
2/16/12
11:15
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Talk about putting your money where your mouth is.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has taken it upon himself -- basically out of his own pocket -- to give his assistants raises.

There is a clause in Swinney's contract stating that if he won the ACC, he would rise to a certain level from a salary standpoint among ACC coaches. When he won the 2011 title, that meant this year's contract would increase by $422,000. He is taking $265,000 of that to give to his coaches. Technically, it's an allocation -- not money he has already received. It is money he would have received -- and that is the key difference between what Swinney is doing and what Georgia coach Mark Richt did.

Regardless, it's a true investment in his program -- one I've never heard of or seen elsewhere in the college coaching ranks -- and odds are it will pay off. It is proof of the literal value of coaching stability.

Swinney's decision stems from today's announcement that the Compensation Committee of the Clemson Board of Trustees approved a proposal from athletic director Terry Don Phillips to grant salary increases totaling $450,000 for seven assistant football coaches, and the head strength coach. It will be in effect for two years, and 60 percent of that money is coming from Swinney. The remaining 40 percent, or $185,000 will be provided by the athletic department.

According to the school's release, Swinney is expected to make $1.9 million in 2012, which will rank 46th nationally according to the most recent data available to Phillips. The staff, including the head coach, is expected to rank between 12th and 15th.

“Coach Swinney has opted to invest in the stability of the program with money he earned in 2011,” Phillips said in a prepared statement. “We have a young football team returning for 2012 and 2013 and he felt it was imperative to have stability from a staff standpoint. These are all options that had been in his existing contract.”

“I am extremely grateful to the Board of Trustees for its approval of these salary increases,” Swinney said in the release. “We have a great staff and I want to do everything I can to keep it together at a critical time in our program. We have a young, but talented team and I feel we have a chance to do something very special in the near future.”

Earlier, it was announced that offensive coordinator Chad Morris would earn $1.3 million and defensive coordinator Brent Venables would earn $800,000 during the 2012 season, meaning Clemson’s nine full-time assistant coaches will earn $4.2 million.

Here is the official run-down of the remaining staff salaries recently approved by the Board of Trustees:

Joey Batson (strength coach) $200,000

Dan Brooks $310,000

Robbie Caldwell $310,000

Tony Elliott $205,000

Charlie Harbison $375,000

Marion Hobby $375,000

Danny Pearman $310,000

Jeff Scott $215,000

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 31, 2009
3/31/09
12:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Plenty to chew on today ...

  • Frank Beamer will start to find out this week whether the Hokies really are good enough to contend for a national title
  • Wake Forest defensive coordinator Brad Lambert has his work cut out for him this year, as seven starters are gone from 2008.
  • There was so much offense coming out of Monday's scrimmage in Tallahassee, that even FSU coach Bobby Bowden was surprised: 
"I've never seen as many long runs in my life," Bowden told the [Tallahassee] Democrat. "I'm talking 60 yards, 70 yards. In the end, the defense kind of tightened it up a bit. I don't know what happened."
  • Ha ... this is so true ... Travis Sawchik of the Post and Courier called Clemson's hire of Dan Brooks one of the "worst kept secrets on campus." Good hire by Dabo Swinney nonetheless.
  • Georgia Tech will be deeper at receiver this year, and part of that stems from the return of Tyler Melton.
  • Here's one I missed -- the details of FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett's new contract. And another about BC kicker Steve Aponavicius' good fortunes from one coaching staff to the next.

Clemson makes Brooks' hire official

March, 30, 2009
3/30/09
5:04
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Clemson has officially hired Dan Brooks as defensive line coach, the school announced on Monday.

Brooks served as defensive line coach at Tennessee for the past 15 years and replaces David Blackwell, who was named defensive coordinator at South Florida earlier this month.

This has been out there for a while, so there's no need to rehash it, it was just a matter of getting the paperwork done. Brooks has been out at practices, so the players are already familiar with him. For the entire release, click here.

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 24, 2009
3/24/09
12:45
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

ACROSS THE HALL FROM JIM GROBE'S OFFICE -- Hello, ACC fans, from Winston-Salem, where Grobe's assistant, Bonnie, was nice enough to find a room for me to set up shop for the daily links. Welcome to my mobile office, complete with a flat-screen TV, NFL helmets and pictures of all of the Deacs who have gone pro.

Speaking of which, former Wake linebacker Aaron Curry stole the spotlight on Monday at Wake's NFL pro day -- and he hardly did a thing. Why should he? The Butkus Award winner has already proven himself as a top pick.

In addition to Wake Forest, Maryland also starts spring practice today. Here are five things to watch in College Park this spring.

Newsday questioned the quarterbacks in the ACC and ranked them. I'll have to respectfully agree to disagree with the list, as Russell Wilson and Tyrod Taylor give defenses the most trouble, and Brett Hodges is no longer on Wake's team.

It appears Dan Brooks is on the verge of being hired at Clemson.

Here's a shocker (seriously) -- Virginia cornerback Vic Hall is starting the spring exclusively as the Cavaliers' No. 1 quarterback.

There was plenty of news that came out of Georgia Tech on its first day of spring practice. The good news? Josh Nesbitt looked sharp.

Checking in from Clemson

March, 23, 2009
3/23/09
11:09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- A few quick observations before I call it a day:

  • First, Jacoby Ford truly looked like a senior at practice today. He caught a nice touchdown pass, prompting coach Dabo Swinney to challenge some of the younger guys to step up.
  • Mason Cloy is getting comfortable at center, which is good because that allows Thomas Austin, the leader of the line, to stay at guard. True freshman J.K. Jay looked impressive and capable of working his way into the rotation.
  • Swinney said he hopes to name a new defensive tackle coach in the next few days, and it will probably be former Tennessee assistant Dan Brooks. He was on the field today. It seems to be one of those things where the holdup in the announcement is the HR paperwork. "I've got a lot of respect for coach Brooks," Swinney said. "He's a great coach, great background, track record, recruiting and coaching. He's certainly a strong candidate."
  • Very impressed with new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. There are some coaches who immediately command respect for their knowledge of the game, and he gave that impression. Home run hire.
  • James Davis was watching practice and will be at pro day on Tuesday.
  • Both Willy Korn and Kyle Parker are competing hard. Through the first couple of practices Korn had been getting the most reps, but he also had the most experienced. They're trying to distribute the reps a little more evenly.

"A lot of people make the statement, if you have two quarterbacks you don't have one quarterback," Swinney said. "Well, I disagree with that. If you've got two good ones, you've got two good ones. That's the situation I see emerging there. It's going to be interesting. I really believe we've got a couple of good quarterbacks. And they're both the same age. ... Maybe one of them separates, I don't know. It looks like something that's going to play out for a while. That's a good thing for me."

Overall, it seems as if Clemson has the potential to surprise some people by the end of the season. The defense will lead the way in the beginning, but they definitely intend to get the ball to their playmakers this year. That, in itself, is an improvement. This offense definitely has big-play capabilities.

South Florida hires former Clemson assistant

March, 12, 2009
3/12/09
5:10
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

South Florida hired former Clemson assistant David Blackwell as co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, USF announced Thursday.

Blackwell just completed his sixth season coaching linebackers at Clemson, and was passed over twice for the defensive coordinator position during that span. In January, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney assigned Blackwell to the defensive tackles. According to Paul Strelow of The State, this move could spark interest in former Tennessee defensive line coach Dan Brooks.

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