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Venables Leaves Lasting Legacy at Clemson

By BJ Bennett
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Even now, as the head coach of the Sooners, Brent Venables remains a Clemson legend.

The legacy Brent Venables leaves at Clemson is simply stunning. During his career as defensive coordinator with the Tigers, Venables won two national championships as Clemson made six consecutive College Football Playoff appearances. He wasn't just instrumental in the Tigers' success, Venables, at Clemson, was an institution. The 2016 Broyles Award winner given to the nation's top assistant coach, Venables became the defensive standard in the sport. His resume, from his time with the Tigers, comes with rings.

At Clemson from 2012 to 2021, Venables helped mold the Tigers into a true national powerhouse. His defenses played with a consistent ferocity, especially in the trenches, that was unpralleled. Venables' defenses were a leading part of Clemson's overall championship brand. The Tigers, with their superstar defensive coordinator right at Dabo Swinney's side, won the aforementioned two national championships and six ACC titles during their run; Venables has his fingerprints all over all of those trophies.

Swinney has talked glowingly about Venables for years and the last few days have been no different. Clemson's head coach has offered congratulations, excitement and validation as his former defensive coordinator has accepted one of college football's most high-profile positions. In addition to showing sincere gratitude for the unparalleled work that Venables did for the Tigers, Swinney, offering even more affirmation for the move, called the hiring of Venables "a great day for Oklahoma". 

Even now, as the head coach of the Sooners, Venables remains a Clemson legend.

The season before Venables arrived in the Upstate, the Tigers ranked 71st nationally in total defense and 81st in scoring. After his first season at Clemson, Venables' defenses would go on to rank an average of 9th in total defense and 10th in scoring over the next nine seasons. After year two, with more of his scheme and more of his recruits in place, the Tigers ranked, on average, 7th in total defense and 8th in scoring. In seven of Venables eight last seasons, Clemson ranked in the top ten defensively, sotting in the top five four different times.

In what has proven to be Venables' last year with the Tigers, Clemson currently ranks second in scoring defense and 9th in total defense. The Tigers promptly opened the season by holding Georgia, which spent much of the regular season ranked number one in the country, to without an offensive score. Fittingly, Venables finished his Clemson career with a shutout of rival South Carolina, with the Tigers winning 30-0 in Columbia. That night, the Tigers held the Gamecocks to just 12 first downs and 43 yards rushing. Not only was that the last game for Venables at Clemson, it was a lasting one. 

So much of what Venables and his attacking defenses accomplished started right at the line of scrimmage.

Remarkably, Clemson ranked in the national top six in team tackles for loss every year from 2013-2020, eight consecutive seasons. During the span, the Tigers, almost inexplicably, led all of college football in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018 and ranked second in 2019 and 2020. The year before Venables arrived, Clemson was 65th nationally in tackles for loss. Furthermore, the Tigers led the nation in team sacks in 2018 and 2018, finishing no lower than 7th in the country from 2014-2021. The season before Venables took over, Clemson slotted 63rd. 

During the Venables era, Tiger defensive linemen earned All-American honors 13 times in nine seasons: Vic Beasley (2x), Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell (2x), Grady Jarrett, Dexter Lawrence (2x), Shaq Lawson, Carlos Watkins and Christian Wilkins (3x). The Tigers, under Venables, didn't just become dominant at the point of attack, they became "DLU". It's a tradition, at Clemson, that contines.  

With a focus on the linebacker position, Venables was also the position coach for All-American defenders Ben Boulware, Tre Lamar, Dorian O'Daniel and Isaiah Simmons. Additionally, Mackensie Alexander, Jayron Kearse, Trayvon Mullen, Tanner Muse, Cordrea Tankersley and Nolan Turner all earned All-American honors in the secondary with Venables calling the plays. 

Before Clemson, Venables was the co-coordinator, then defensive coordinator at Oklahoma. He helped the Sooners to the 2000 national championship, three more title game appearances and seven Big XII championships. At Oklahoma, Venables' defenses ranked in the national top 16 in total defense eight times, with the Sooners pacing the league in scoring and total defense in 2006. In his time at Oklahoma and Clemson combined, Venables coached 88 defenders selected in the NFL Draft. He has been a leading name for a generation.  

All of Venables' achievements with the Tigers make him one of the prominent defensive coordinators in modern college football history. He gets his chance to lead a power program next.

Replacing Lincoln Riley in Norman, Venables is now a head coach for the first time in his career, an opportunity he has more than earned. From winning national championships to working alongside Swinney, to working with multiple All-Americans, Venables is a big reason why the Tigers consistently made it to the big stage. And the Sooners before that. The program Venables is returning to is clearly one that means a lot to him; the same can be said for the program he just left.  

Having coached his sons Jake and Tyler in purple and orange, Venables will forever be part of the Clemson family.

It goes without saying that Venables is an all-time great for the Tigers, his perspective staying with the program while he settles in out west. As Venables moves on to Oklahoma, he does so with a special place in Clemson lore. The Tigers will continue to chase excellence in the years to come. It's an expectation that Venables helped set.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: / Twitter: @BJBennettSports