CHARLOTTE — Though everyone wanted to talk about his quarterback situation Thursday during the ACC Football Kickoff at the Westin Charlotte in Charlotte, N.C., Dabo Swinney was thrilled to field a question or two about his defensive coordinator.
Clemson’s Board of Trustees approved a five-year $11.6 million dollar contract Thursday, giving Brent Venables the largest contract of any assistant coach in college football.
“I think he’s the best at what he does and he’s passionate about his job, the players he coaches, and about Clemson,” Swinney said. “He’s passionate about what he does and with anything you show me a person who is very passionate about what they do and they’re usually going to be pretty good at it. That’s where it starts. He loves what he does and where he does his job.”
Venables has been the Tigers’ defensive coordinator since 2012. During his time there he has helped Clemson become one of the best defenses in the country every year.
Since 2014, the Tigers have ranked in the top 10 nationally in both scoring and total defense every year. They led the nation in total defense in 2014 and last year ranked second in scoring defense and fourth in total defense.
Swinney says it is his intensity and passion for the game that makes him so good. All-American defensive end Clelin Ferrell says it’s because he expects a lot out of himself and his players. In the end, however, he loves his players, though.
“When we get off the field he’s still a bit intense, but when he gets around his daughters he’s a softie then,” Ferrell said. “He becomes a big teddy bear around them. Otherwise, he’s always asking if you’re doing your stuff, watching your film, how’s this guy or that guy doing. He’s always stressed and never gets comfortable and complacent and that’s what I like.”
Ferrell also said Venables is the reason he came to Clemson in the first place.
“My mom loved him when he came to meet us and the reason why is because he’s so genuine,” Ferrell said. “He’s not somebody who was going to tell you what you wanted to hear, but what you needed to hear and that’s what my mom liked.
“He’s from a military background and was hard on me like that. I loved that because at the end of the day I needed someone who wanted the best for me and that’s what he wants for his players and that’s what makes him a good coach.”
It’s also because he is always so organized and well prepared.
“He’s got a photographic memory, he remembers every play,” Ferrell said. “There’s not a play he doesn’t remember from any game in the past. Ask him about it, and quote me on it.
“It’s his knowledge of the game. What will (an opponent) try to expose and what are our weaknesses and how we can we mask those. It’s kind of crazy to watch what a mastermind he is at it.”
Venables new deal should keep him at Clemson for a long time. He will make $2 million dollars per year, not including incentives and retention bonus that could lift his salary to $2.3 million the next two years and $2.4 million in the final three years of the deal.
In other words, only lucrative head coaching jobs can carry Venables away from Clemson.
“His family has gotten very invested and ingrained in the community. He loves the area he lives in and where he gets to do his job,” Swinney said. “He’s very detailed and loves to prepare and loves to get the defense ready, loves the interaction with his players. He’s got a ton of energy and brings it every single day, a mentality that you want to have and you’d better show up ready for practice, because he is. That brings a great sense of urgency to that side of the ball and he’s a great complement to me.”
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