Life is not too bad for Nick Eason these days.
Not only is he getting to coach football at his alma mater, but he also inherits one of the best groups of defensive tackles in college football.
Eason was officially hired as Clemson’s new defensive tackles coach on Friday, replacing Todd Bates, who left to join Brent Venables’ staff at Oklahoma, earlier this week.
“To have this opportunity to come back to Clemson is a blessing from God,” Eason said in a press release. “It is a dream for most coaches to have the opportunity to coach at your alma mater and that is the case for me.”
It’s also a dream to coach two potential first-round draft picks and several more high-caliber defensive tackles. Bryan Bresee, who will likely return to practice sometime in the spring after tearing his ACL last September, is considered one of, if not, the best defensive tackle in college football. His partner in crime on the defensive line, Tyler Davis, is considered one of the top interior linemen in the country, as well.
But it does not just stop with Bresee and Davis. The Tigers also have Ruke Orhorhoro, who came on and made the most of his opportunity with Bresee out of the lineup this year. Clemson also returns Tre Williams and ET Reuben, as they both got a lot of playing time as well.
Payton Page, who was a true freshman last year, also got some valuable playing experience this past season. DeMonte Capehart, who has missed each of his first two years at Clemson because of injury, is expected to be available to play in 2022.
“I want to thank Coach [Dabo] Swinney for the opportunity to be a part of a program with such a rich tradition, one that has become one of the best in the nation,” Eason said. “I also can’t wait to work with Chief of Staff Woody McCorvey, who I have known and respected for many years.
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“Most of all, I am looking forward to working with one of the best defensive lines in the country.”
Swinney is excited about what the Tigers are getting in Eason, too. The former Clemson star brings a ton of experience to the coaching staff after playing and coaching in the NFL for much the last 18 years.
He spent last season at Auburn, where he coached the defensive line. He helped the SEC Tigers rank sixth in the SEC against the run in 2021, allowing just 126.9 yards per game. Auburn allowed just 3.5 yards per carry, which ranked third in the conference behind Alabama and Georgia.
Auburn also ranked fourth in the SEC and 17th nationally in tackles for loss with 96. Eason coached rush end Derick Hall to second team All-SEC honors in 2021. The junior tallied nine of the Tigers’ 36 sacks and had 12.5 tackles for loss. He led the Tigers in both categories.
Hall’s nine sacks tied for third in the SEC.
“Nick is the epitome of what I look for in a coach. He has an incredible passion for the game, he has a great background, and he truly loves the player,” Swinney said. “In this hire, I really wanted a guy who had great experience at the NFL level. I wanted somebody who has coached the best of the best at the highest level, and that’s exactly what he’s done. He was a great player at Clemson and he’s a great Clemson man.
“Not only was he a great player at Clemson, but he was a great pro. He was incredibly respected all throughout his career as a player and coach. He’s coached the best of the best, he’s a Super Bowl champion, but I love his passion for coaching and teaching young people. He’s been drawn to the college level by the impact he can have on a young person’s life, and he just really fits and aligns with our values here at Clemson. It’s just an added bonus that he happened to be a great player here at Clemson.”
Eason, who played 10 seasons in the NFL and won Super Bowl XLIII as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, lettered at Clemson from 1999-’02. He was voted as a team-captain as both a junior and as a senior.
In 2002, he earned First-Team All-ACC honors as a defensive tackle. Eason played in 47 games during his Clemson playing career, including 35 starts for the Tigers. He recorded 15 sacks and 30 tackles for losses.
“Clemson is a special place. It has been family to me since I first took a visit as a recruit in 1997,” Eason said. “I have continued the relationships I started almost 25 years ago with the fans, the administration and the coaching staff.”