After the not-so-surprising release of defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, head coach Dabo Swinney went on the search once again for a new coordinator. And after a couple of weeks worth of speculation, decision making and thinking, the Clemson Tigers have their new defensive coordinator.
His name: Brent Venables, now former defensive coordinator of the Oklahoma Sooners.
Venables finally decided that his place for the next few seasons will be in Clemson, South Carolina to help fix a struggling Clemson defense trying to find its identity, especially after giving up 70 points in an Orange Bowl loss against the West Virginia Mountaineers.
After spending over a decade at Oklahoma, Venables is bringing his abilities he learned in the Big 12 to the ACC. But what exactly does Venables bring to the table?
First of all, Venables brings that same fiery intensity and energy that the defense sorely lacked this season, and he should help to bring back the aggressiveness on defense. Venables is a young coach at 41, but he provides a longer-term solution for the Tigers thanks to his intensity and style.
Venables runs a 4-3 defense but keeps his defense ends active on defense and seems to bring more ability to rush the passer, a glaring weakness for Clemson's defense in 2011.
But Venables' most invaluable asset will be his ability to develop linebackers. During his tenure at Kansas State and Oklahoma, Venables coached several Butkus Award winners and finalists, while also coaching several Big 12 Players of the Year at the position.
Steele's inability to develop linebackers eventually caught up to him and became less of a personnel factor and more of a coaching factor. Steele was responsible for the linebackers during his time as defensive coordinator and failed to develop the potential Clemson's group currently has.
Steele's inability to contain mobile, running quarterbacks and spread offense was a huge part of why Clemson struggled to win games, especially evidenced by the 70 points the "Air Raid" that West Virginia put up against the Tigers.
Now, the task of developing the linebackers and bringing back Clemson's aggressive mentality on defense now falls on Venables, who will have all eyes upon him throughout the spring and the fall. While the offense was the story of the season last year, it may be the defense that takes up that mantle this upcoming season.