Within a week after former Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables departed to become Oklahoma’s new head coach, the Tigers suffered three decommitments on the defensive side of the ball in the IMG Academy trio of five-star cornerback Daylen Everette, four-star safety Keon Sabb and four-star defensive end Jihaad Campbell.
Dabo Swinney and his staff weren’t the only ones affected by those players withdrawing their pledges from Clemson.
So was Venables.
“What was it like for me? There was a few decommitments. That was hurtful for me,” Venables said Wednesday during his National Signing Day press conference. “I know, one, the need that they have for those young guys. Clemson doesn’t just keep recruiting when they get a commitment. Some places just keep recruiting if they can get a better guy. They’ll address it down the road and they might have to tell a guy, hey we don’t have a spot for you, and guys are left without scholarships. And that’s not how Coach Swinney handles his business. So, by being upfront and honest and doing things the right way, sometimes that can hurt you in this game, but overall, it’ll serve you well.”
Everette has since signed with Georgia, while Sabb inked with Michigan and Campbell put pen to paper with Alabama.
Venables said he had conversations with Clemson’s decommits and wanted them to reconsider the situation.
“I’ve even spoken to a few guys after they decommitted, just to say hey, you need to rethink this,” Venables said, “and just try to help them and just to hopefully be another source that could bring a little clarity in a very difficult process for both the prospects and for the universities.”
Out of respect for Swinney and his staff, Venables says once he took over as Oklahoma’s head coach, he didn’t try to keep pursuing the players he recruited at Clemson.
“I’ve not tried to continue to ‘recruit guys,’” he said. “My relationship with Coach Swinney goes so much further than the football field. He’s family to me. The rest of the staff there is family to me. So again, I’ve got incredible respect and appreciation and thankfulness, and again, just trying to do things the right way. In this profession, the pressure to win and to get players, I think people lose their way. And for me, that’s always been an easy philosophy and value system to have, is just to do what’s right. So, I’ve tried to do that.”
Before taking the Oklahoma job, Venables said he hit the recruiting trail “with every intention of being the defensive coordinator at Clemson,” but at the same time, tried to be upfront and honest with prospects about his interest in Oklahoma and the communication that had taken place between him and the Sooners.
“I think that’s just the way you do things, just try to be upfront and honest,” Venables said. “To me, Clemson’s an easy sell. That’s what I tried to do. There’s so many reasons we don’t have time in this press conference to talk about what makes that place so great. Taking me out of the equation is what I’m talking about and what makes it so great.
“So, that was easy for me. I was every bit as invested there, at the time, in Clemson University and Coach Swinney, how good he’s been to me and our family. So, I felt it was the very least that I could do, to try to continue to help Clemson through that time. And again, the speculation, it was important for me to get in front of them and continue in support of both their opportunity there and again, their future there.”
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