Eason's hire adds to coaching staff's next-level experience

Eason's hire adds to coaching staff's next-level experience


Eason's hire adds to coaching staff's next-level experience


The latest addition to Clemson’s football coaching staff is expected to become official Friday morning.

And when it does, Dabo Swinney will have another assistant that’s experienced the level of the sport that many of the Tigers’ current and prospective players aspire to reach.

Nick Eason is set to join the Tigers’ staff as the replacement for Todd Bates, who coached Clemson’s defensive tackles for half a decade before recently leaving to join Brent Venables’ staff at Oklahoma. Eason will be the fifth former Tiger on staff, but perhaps more importantly from a recruiting perspective, he will be the seventh assistant coach that’s either played or coached in the NFL.

In Eason’s case, he’s done both.

After finishing an all-ACC senior season at Clemson in 2002, Eason was taken in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. He’ll be the fourth assistant that was drafted into the NFL, joining running backs coach and former Clemson standout C.J. Spiller (2010, first round), cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator Mike Reed (1995, seventh round out of Boston College) and defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall (1994, seventh round out of Alabama).

Receivers coach Tyler Grisham and newly promoted offensive line coach Thomas Austin had brief stints in the NFL after signing as undrafted free agents in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Eason had a longer playing career than any of them, spending a decade with four NFL teams. The last nine were spent with the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals. As part of the Steelers’ defensive line rotation from 2007-10, he played in two Super Bowls and was a member of Pittsburgh’s most recent Super Bowl-winning team in 2008.

After calling it quits as a player in 2012, Eason began his coaching career as an intern with the Browns and quickly worked his way up the ladder. He was hired as an assistant defensive line coach by the Tennessee Titans in 2014 before becoming the team’s primary defensive line coach two years later.

In 2019, the Cincinnati Bengals hired him as their defensive line coach. Eason has had pit stops in the college ranks at Austin Peay (2018) and Auburn (2021) before now, but seven of his nine seasons coaching have been spent in the NFL.

Throw in Reed (Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive backs and special teams coach from 2002-06), Hall (internship with the Titans) and Goodwin (Cardinals’ assistant to the head coach from 2015-17), and Clemson’s staff boasts more than five decades of combined experience playing and coaching at the next level. Between Eason and Hall, who played nine NFL seasons with the Houston/Tennessee Oilers, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings, Clemson’s defensive line will have 26 years worth of NFL experience coaching it up.

Eason isn’t exactly inheriting a bare cupboard at his position. Clemson is in line to return every significant contributor on the interior of the defensive line, including starters Tyler Davis and Bryan Bresee, who could be a first-round draft pick next year.

But the credentials also figure to be a major selling point on the recruiting trail for Eason, who, in less than a calendar year on Auburn’s staff, helped the Tigers land three impact transfers along the defensive line. He was also a factor in Auburn signing the nation’s top overall junior college prospect in the current recruiting cycle, defensive tackle Jeffrey M’ba.

Now Eason will be selling his alma mater. And he knows as well as anybody on Swinney’s staff how to forge path from Clemson to the sport’s highest level.

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