Clemson's 5 Best: Top Defensive Coordinators In Program History


Since the arrival of Brent Venables at Clemson as the team's defensive coordinator, the Tigers have fielded some of the country's best defenses. However, before his arrival Clemson was known for fielding some pretty good defensive units. 

Those Charlie Pell and Danny Ford teams had ferocious defenses. Even some of the less successful teams the Tigers had were solid. 

In a continuation of our "5 Best" series, today All Clemson looks back at the five best coaches to lead those defensive units:

5. John Lovett (2002-2004)

Lovett didn't have a long tenure as the Tigers' defensive coordinator, but while he was there his defenses produced. In 2003, Clemson allowed just 19.2 points per game as it finished the year with nine wins and ranked in the Top-25. In 2004, the Tigers were 11th in the nation in pass-defense efficiency (103.4) and 26th in total defense (327.3 yards per game). 

4. Reggie Herring (1997-2001) 

Herring spent eight years at Clemson and three as linebackers coach under Tommy West before being promoted to defensive coordinator. In those eight years, the defense ranked in the Top-20 in the nation in rushing defense five times. Four times they finished ranked in the Top-25 in scoring defense, and twice they finished in the Top-25 in total defense. Herring coached two of the greatest linebackers in school history in Anthony Simmons and Keith Adams.


3. Mickey Andrews (1977-1980)

While his stay in Clemson wasn't particularly long, Andrews being named defensive coordinator under then-head coach Charlie Pell prior to the 1977 season coincided with a monumental shift in the trajectory of the program. The Tigers hadn't been to a bowl game since 1959 and had experienced just one winning season in the previous nine years. Clemson finished 8-3-1 in 1977 and followed that up with an 11-1 season in 1978, and a turnaround on the defensive side of the ball played a big part in that. Andrews went on to spend well over two decades coaching some of the best defenses in the country at Florida State while helping the team to win multiple national titles. 


2. Tom Harper (1981-1989)

Harper was the architect of some of the greatest defensive lines in school history, including the 1981 national championship team. He coached 20 linemen who would go onto play professional football, including six from that 1981 team. Harper tragically passed away in 1989, just a few months after stepping down from his role as defensive coordinator in order to go into an administrative role at the school. 

1. Brent Venables (2012-Present)

Venables was brought in to rebuild a defense that had drastically fallen off in its last couple of seasons under the guidance of Kevin Steele. Since coming over from Oklahoma in 2012, Venables has turned the Clemson defense into one of the best in the country on an annual basis. In the six-year College Football Playoff era, Clemson has finished in the top 10 in the nation in total defense each year, a claim no other program in the country can make.