Nick Eason is on the verge of joining Clemson’s coaching staff, which will bring the former Tiger back to his alma mater.
Eason, a defensive end at Clemson from 1999-2002, will replace Todd Bates, who coached Clemson’s defensive tackles for the last five seasons before leaving to be the co-defensive coordinator at Oklahoma earlier this week. Eason spent this season coaching Auburn’s defensive line.
But Clemson will be getting more than just an alum back in the fold.
After an all-ACC senior season at Clemson, Eason was selected in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos and played for the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals until his retirement following the 2012 season. He went to two Super Bowls with Pittsburgh and was a member of the Steelers’ Super Bowl XLIII title team.
Since his retirement as a player, he’s spent most of his coaching career in the professional ranks, getting his start as an assistant defensive line coach with the Browns in 2013. He moved on in the same role to the Tennessee Titans a year later before being promoted to the Titans’ primary defensive line coach in 2016.
During his final year in Tennessee, the Titans owned a top-5 rush defense in the NFL, allowing just 88.8 yards per game during the ‘17 season.
After a pit stop at Austin Peay in 2018, Eason was hired as the Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive line coach, a role he served in for two seasons. During his time in Cincinnati, Eason helped mentor Pro Bowl defensive linemen Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap before being let go by Bengals coach Zac Taylor.
Counting his time as a player and a coach, Eason has 18 years of NFL experience. Throw in defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall, who played nine seasons in the NFL, and Clemson has nearly three decades worth of experience at the professional level coaching its defensive line, which can’t hurt on the recruiting trail.
Speaking of, despite just two seasons coaching at the collegiate level so far, Eason has quickly made waves as a recruiter.
Eason was hired to Bryan Harsin’s staff at Auburn last January. While the bulk of Auburn’s recruiting class was already finalized by that point, Eason later helped lure a trio of defensive line transfers to the Plains in Eku Leota (Northwestern), Tony Fair (UAB) and Marcus Harris (Kansas). All three were part of an Auburn defense that finished 30th nationally against the run while Leota and fellow defensive end Derick Hall, a second-team all-SEC selection under Eason’s tutelage, combined for 16 sacks.
Eason has helped Auburn pull in one of the SEC’s top defensive line hauls during the current cycle. The Tigers have four defensive line signees and commits in their 2022 recruiting class, including the nation’s top overall junior college prospect, Jeffrey M’ba, and Oregon transfer Jayson Jones.
Clemson doesn’t have any defensive linemen signed or committed this year, though part of that is the position Eason is inheriting is one of the deepest on the Tigers’ roster for the time being. Barring any transfers, Clemson will return its top six interior defensive linemen from this season, including a pair of all-ACC caliber tackles in Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis, who’s returning for his senior season.
A former five-star recruit, Bresee is arguably the best of the bunch, though a torn ACL back in September forced him to miss most of his sophomore season. But Bresee is expected to be back in some capacity this spring, so Eason should get his first chance to work with Bresee then.
Even without Bresee (and Davis for four games), Clemson finished in the top 10 nationally in points allowed, yards allowed and rush defense this season. The development of backup-turned-starter Ruke Orhorhoro as well as other backups such as Tre Williams and Etinose Reuben under Bates’ guidance had a lot to do with that.
Now Eason will get his chance to coach the group and add to it in the years to come, bringing plenty of seasoning with him back to a place with which he’s all too familiar.
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