Clemson’s D-coordinator brings intensity and then some
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Clemson fans are used to the sight: defensive coordinator Brent Venables charging onto the field in an emotional outburst, being pulled back to the sideline by the assistant strength coach in charge of keeping the intense coach out of trouble.
Intense might be an understatement.
“I love what I do. I’m very passionate about it,” Venables said Tuesday. “I make no apologies for that. Not everybody is built the same but be who you are, and this is who I’m comfortable being.”
And he’s been very successful doing it his way.
The Tigers lost seven starters from the 2015 team that made it to the national championship game, six of whom are playing in the NFL.
Despite that, Clemson (12-1) finished ninth in the nation in total defense, 12th in scoring defense, third in sacks and third in tackles for loss. The third-ranked Tigers face No. 2 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal Saturday.
To understand how intense Venables is, look no farther than the legend of “Jimmy Greenbeans,” the vaunted quarterback of Clemson’s scout team. Venables took on the alter ego — the name, he says, just sort of came to him — when before this season opener against Auburn he was growing frustrated with the way the scout team was performing in practice.
“I can control what we do,” Venables said. “I do everything perfectly right up until I have to run or throw.” He said he thinks he should be in line for scout team MVP.
And Greenbeans welcomes aggressive defenders .
“I give him a nudge, a little shove,” said defensive tackle Carlos Watkins, a second-team All-American. “We’ve got other guys on the team that like to bully him. He likes it, honestly, though. He’s one of a kind.”
Venables played at Kansas State and began his coaching career there under Bill Snyder, one of the more stoic coaches in the game. Venables behaves just the opposite.
“Intense is the word that I would use,” Watkins said. “He don’t change. He’s always going to be intense. He’s a perfectionist. He wants to be in the best position possible. That’s just the way he is. He wants to be the best and he challenges us to be the best. That’s why I love him as a defensive coordinator.”
Venables, 46, spent 13 years at Oklahoma — first as co-defensive coordinator, then as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator — before coming to Clemson in 2012. The Tigers have gone 46-8 since then.
He was the 2016 recipient of the Frank Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach and at $1.35 million per year he is one of the highest paid assistants in FBS.
So doing it Venables’ way obviously works for him.
“He is kind of bipolar a little bit,” linebacker Ben Boulware said with a laugh. “When he gets on the field, it’s crazy the stuff he does. He just wants the best out of his players.”
Venables said he’s “just very focused.”
“I’m pretty single-minded in whatever the task is,” he said. “I learned that a long time ago from Bill Snyder. Don’t ever get too comfortable and always think about ’Well, what if that doesn’t work.”
And he believes his attitude rubs off.
“As much as anything, I think the players will feed off of you, your mindset, your attitude, what you expect, and that’s how I was brought up in the coaching profession,” Venables said. “A lot of accountability, a lot of discipline.”
Safety Jadar Johnson was shocked when he got his first dose of Venables’ coaching style.
“When I first got here I wasn’t real fond of him just because he’s so energetic,” Johnson said. “He’ll yell at you so much. I really wasn’t used to that, especially coming from somebody I didn’t really know. I was like ‘Who are you talking to?’
“But that was just me being immature. When I got the maturity that I needed I understood that it’s all about taking the message and not really looking at the delivery because he never really tells you anything that harms you.”
Now Johnson calls Venables “one of the best coaches I ever had.”
Venables has had chances to be a head coach and maybe someday will. But for now he is comfortable where he is and Clemson is certainly not looking to let him go.
“I don’t want to put that out there, but he would be an excellent head coach, honestly,” Watkins said. “He likes to win, and he’s a competitor.”