It didn’t take long after Lincoln Riley, who spent five seasons at the helm of Oklahoma’s football program, accepted the head coaching job at Southern California for talk of Brent Venables being a strong candidate for the opening to start.
We wanted to share the latest information we have on the situation after talking with several sources.
First, we can confirm that Clemson’s longtime defensive coordinator is one of the coaches that the Sooners have interest in for the position. We believe there have been some conversations between the two camps about the opening, but we do not believe there have been formal conversations as of late Monday.
We can also tell you that Venables is scheduled to hit the road recruiting for Clemson on Tuesday. The OU job officially came open Sunday night when Riley’s hire at USC was announced.
Venables has spent the last 10 seasons as the defensive coordinator at Clemson, where he eventually became the nation’s highest-paid assistant as the architect of some of the nation’s best defenses. The 50-year-old Venables has turned down other FBS head coaching opportunities over the years, but OU is a place he’s all too familiar with.
Venables came to Clemson in 2012 from OU, where he spent 13 years as a defensive assistant, including a stint as defensive coordinator, under Bob Stoops. The Tigers underwent a quick defensive turnaround under Venables, who replaced Kevin Steele after the Tigers allowed a whopping 70 points to West Virginia in an Orange Bowl loss to end the 2011 season.
Clemson finished 81st nationally in points allowed that season, but Venables moved Clemson into the top 50 in that category in his first season at the controls. The Tigers have had a top-25 scoring defense every year since, including four seasons in the top 10.
Their best defensive season statistically during Venables’ tenure came during their 2018 national championship season when the Tigers gave up the fewest points in the country (13.1 per game). This year’s version isn’t far behind, carrying an offense that sputtered the first half of the season.
Clemson heads into its bowl game allowing just 15 points per game, good for second-fewest in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Tigers pitched a shutout against South Carolina — the first on either side of the in-state rivalry since 1989 — in the regular-season finale.
We will have to wait and see whether or not Dabo Swinney will be looking for his third defensive coordinator since taking over as Clemson’s head coach in 2009 or if once again Venables decides to remain at Clemson.
Stay tuned to The Clemson Insider for the latest on this evolving situation.
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