Dave Doeren owes Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables a favor for helping him with his coaching career. However, NC State’s head coach will not let his longtime friend cash in on that favor this week, not with his No. 15 Wolfpack coming to Clemson on Saturday to face the third-ranked Tigers.
Venables and Doeren have been friends since they were young graduate assistant coaches back in the mid-1990s. Doeren was a graduate assistant at Drake, while Venables was at Kansas State.
“We used to clinic each other,” Venables said. “We used to get together and talk football, linebacker play, defense … we did that for a number of years until we had to start facing each other.”
The two started facing each other in 2002 when Doeren took the linebackers and recruiting coordinators job on Mark Mangino’s staff at Kansas. It was Venables who helped Doeren get an interview with Mangino.
“Obviously, I got the job because he got me the interview. I definitely owe him for that,” Doeren said.
Doeren stayed at Kansas through the 2005 season when he accepted the job as co-defensive coordinator at Wisconsin. Of course, while at Kansas, he coached against Venables and Oklahoma.
“That is kind of when we started facing each other and we quit letting him come see us,” Venables joked.
Doeren’s current team comes to Death Valley undefeated (5-0, 2-0 ACC) and hoping to upset Venables and the Tigers, who are also undefeated (6-0, 3-0 ACC).
“I have great respect for him as a person, as a football coach,” Doeren said. “We used to recruit the same area in Dallas, talk football, talk linebacker play. Obviously compete against each other.”
Doeren says Venables is a great coach, and he thinks a lot of him.
“What makes him a great defensive coordinator,” said Doeren, “I think he’s a very detailed guy. I think he’s a passionate guy, a very knowledgeable guy that understands how to relate and connect to people, but also how to push them and get a lot out of them.”
Venables gets a lot out of his Clemson defense. This year, the Tigers currently rank third nationally in total defense (261.2) and tackles for loss per game (9.5), sixth in scoring defense (14.5), sixth in passing defense (152.8), seven in sacks per game (3.33) and 14th against the run (108.3).
Clemson has finished with very similar numbers in each of the last four seasons. Those numbers are why Venables is the second highest paid assistant coach ($2 million per year) in the country.
“I know his players play hard for him and he competes his ass off in practice every day as a coach,” Doeren said. “I know that about him. I have great respect for him. He deserves every dollar he gets down there, he does a great job for them.”
At NC State, Doeren has helped the Wolfpack slowly move up the latter in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, making them a perennial contender with Clemson and Florida State the last few years. Some will argue, and deservedly so, that State has passed the Seminoles. Last year, the ‘Pack won nine games and this year his team is undefeated despite losing seven players, including the entire defensive line to the NFL Draft, from last year’s squad.
“Dave has done a terrific job everywhere he has been,” Venables said. “He is very detailed, very passionate, tough, very disciplined and his team reflects that.”
On Saturday, two friends will have their respected teams battle it out at Death Valley with control of the ACC’s Atlantic Division on the line.