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Oklahoma Coach Brent Venables, Part 3: The Clemson Dynasty

After leaving OU, Brent Venables continued to field elite defenses at Clemson.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is Part 3 of a three-part series today after Brent Venables has been hired as head football coach at Oklahoma.


Brent Venables has a track record at Clemson Oklahoma fans have envied from afar over the past decade.

Arriving in 2012, the long-time OU defensive coordinator didn’t need very long to turn Clemson’s defense into one of the nation’s best units. 

Before Venables arrived, the Tigers finished the 2011 season as the No. 71-ranked total defense in the country. In his first season at Clemson, the defense made modest improvements, finishing 65th in total defense, but then the Tigers took a massive leap.

Clemson finished as the No. 25-rated total defense in 2013, and Venables’ unit never finished lower after that.

In 2014, the Tigers led the nation in allowing just 260.8 yards per game, and 2020 was the only other season Venables’ Clemson defense finished outside of the top 10 in yards allowed per game (the 2020 Clemson defense finished 14th).

Since Venables’ departure from Norman, the Sooners have only finished in the top 25 nationally in total defense once, when OU ended the year as the 20th best defense in 2013.

Brent Venables' Clemson Defenses

YearTotal DefenseRushing DefensePassing DefenseScoring DefenseDraft Picks

2012

65

57

73

46

3

2013

25

52

16

24

2

2014

1

5

2

3

1

2015

10

19

17

25

4

2016

8

24

14

10

7

2017

4

12

4

2

2

2018

6

5

24

1

1

2019

3

19

4

3

5

2020

14

14

41

18

4

2021

9

9

37

2

0

As the Tigers have locked down opposing offenses, Venables’ unit has also finished in the top three in scoring defense five times, finishing third in 2014, second in 2017, first in 2018, third in 2019 and second in 2021.

Also, given the last 10 years of defensive struggles, Oklahoma fans may remember Venables' production at Oklahoma a little differently. In reality, Venables almost always had a strong defense at OU.

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While Venables at OU produced 26 NFL Draft picks in 13 seasons, including four first-rounders in Roy Williams, Andre Woolfolk, Tommie Harris and Gerald McCoy, he's had even more success placing players at the next level from Clemson.  

NFL teams have selected 29 Clemson players in the NFL Draft in the nine full seasons since Venables arrived on the South Carolina campus.

Eight of those 29 were first-round picks, including linebacker Isaiah Simmons and cornerback A.J. Terrell in 2020, defensive linemen Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence in 2019, defensive end Shaq Lawson in 2016 and linebackers Vic Beasley and Stephone Anthony in 2015.

An additional nine Tigers were taken in the second and third rounds since 2012, giving Venables defenses 17 picks in the first three rounds over the past decade.

Even more impressive, Venables’ defenses have still performed at a high level while still being paired with an explosive Clemson offense.

For his entire career since arriving at Oklahoma, Venables has coached with an offense prepared to air it out and score in lightning fast strikes, meaning he doesn’t need a ball-control offense to get results.

If he embraces the offensive philosophies of Bob Stoops at Oklahoma and his current boss, Dabo Swinney, then Venables should be able to make a progressive hire at offensive coordinator who can appeal to recruits as well as the current players on campus, including star quarterback Caleb Williams.


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