Clemson introduces Brent Venables
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Brent Venables didn't watch much of Clemson's Discover Orange Bowl debacle earlier this month. He's ready to make sure, though, that it never again happens to a Tigers defense.
Venables, who spent the past 13 years in charge of Oklahoma's defense, was introduced as Clemson's new coordinator on Friday. He said he was visiting a recruit at home during the Tigers' BCS embarrassment, when they gave up a bowl-record 70 points to West Virginia.
"They have nothing to be ashamed of around here. They just won the ACC and they're going in the right direction," Venables said. "I've been on both sides of it and sometimes that happens."
Venables visited campus last weekend with his wife, Julie, and was instantly impressed with Clemson's facilities and coaches who took pride in making sure the program was the best it could be.
"Name me the places where that takes place," Venables said. "You could probably do it on one hand."
Venables, 41, was in one of those places with the Sooners, who he helped win a national title in 2000 and played in three other BCS title games. Venables said he wouldn't have made the move if he didn't believe Clemson had the same chance for continual, top-flight success as Oklahoma.
"Absolutely we'll win," he said. "I've got great confidence."
Venables and Clemson agreed to a four-year deal worth $800,000 a season.
Clemson's defense had been a program backbone for decades with stellar defenders like Terry Kinard; the Perry brothers, William "the Fridge" and Michael Dean; Brentson Buckner; Brian Dawkins; and 2010's Nagurski and Hendricks award winner Da'Quan Bowers. This year's group, though, struggled to keep teams out of the end zone, allowing 30 or more points in seven of its final eight games.
Clemson opened the year 8-0 and was in the BCS title conversation as one of college football's biggest surprises the first two months of the season. Then things soured.
Georgia Tech broke the undefeated run with a 31-17 victory in which the Tigers couldn't stop the Yellow Jackets' option game. Clemson trailed Wake Forest by two touchdowns before rallying to a 31-28 victory. The Tigers were blown out by an underachieving North Carolina State offense, 37-13, and were overrun by rival South Carolina, 34-13.
It appeared the defense was back to its nasty self with a 38-10 win over Virginia Tech last month that clinched the Tigers' first ACC title in 20 years. The breakdowns, though, were everywhere in the Mountaineers' 70-33 win in the Orange Bowl.
A week after the embarrassing loss, coach Dabo Swinney and Kevin Steele, the former Baylor head coach who was the Tigers' defensive coordinator the past three seasons, agreed that a change was needed. Swinney said he had "philosophical differences" with Steele.
Swinney texted Venables on Jan. 12 -- the night he parted with Steele -- and the longtime Oklahoma assistant called Clemson's third-year coach about five minutes later. The two spent the next three hours on the phone discussing family, defensive style and people they knew.
Swinney still had several other candidates to chat with but wanted Venables on campus as quickly as possible. He visited last weekend and said he knew as he left that going to Clemson was the right move at the right time.
Still, it was not easy. Venables said he owed much to Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and the tug of his time with the Sooners was hard to break. Venables agreed to the job last Wednesday night.
"The needle (at Clemson) to me is pointing in one direction, and that's up," Venables said.
Stoops said in a statement he hated losing such a close colleague and friend in Venables.
"But if we truly are close colleagues and friends, we want what is best for him," Stoop said. "He has determined that his career goals might be better met in new surroundings."
Venables said the re-hiring of former Arizona coach Mike Stoops by his brother as co-defensive coordinator did not lead to the change. Venables said he was excited to again work with Mike Stoops and would've done so gladly if the Clemson opportunity hadn't come up.
Venables also got a shot off in Clemson's annual blood-fued with South Carolina. Explaining how he was friends with Gamecocks receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr., Venables said Spurrier sounded a "little bit jealous" of his job with the Tigers.
Clemson has lost three straight games to South Carolina. Venables is eager for that to change.
"I feel like this is more than a home run for me," Venables said.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press