Tyler Venables and his father are roughly 1,000 miles apart nowadays. Yet even as the two wade through the thick of preparations for their respective football seasons, Brent Venables still makes a point to hop on the phone with his son back in Clemson.
“He was actually just FaceTiming me (Monday) night,” Tyler said. “With both of our schedules the way it is, it’s pretty hard to do that and have the energy to do so, especially with his role now. But he always tries to find a way to make time.”
Of course, the elder Venables is now the head coach at the University of Oklahoma, a job he took late last year after a highly successful decade-long run as Dabo Swinney’s defensive coordinator. It’s also the first time Tyler and his dad have been separated since the younger Venables joined Clemson’s program as an in-state standout out of nearby Daniel High School in 2020.
But there was a time when Tyler didn’t think that would be the case.
When Brent was officially tabbed as Lincoln Riley’s successor in early December, Tyler said he initially thought he wanted to transfer to continue playing for his dad. He even acknowledged telling Swinney a white lie when the two first talked about Tyler’s future plans shortly following his father’s departure from the program.
“(Swinney) was like, ‘Well what are you going to do?’” Tyler said. “And I was like, ‘I guess I’m going to stay?’ I had kind of told him that, but I didn’t really mean it.”
Tyler also talked to his dad, whom he said didn’t pressure his son to follow him to Norman. After taking a couple of days to ponder his situation more thoroughly, Tyler told his father he was staying put.
“He was just listening to what I had to say and what I thought,” Tyler said. “And I kind of explained it to him, ‘I like simplicity.’ And he agreed. There’s no need to complicate your life at this age.”
So Tyler is still at Clemson, though not everything is the same. The Tigers’ junior safety changed his jersey number from 12 to 24 – the number he wore in high school that became available again in the spring once Nolan Turner left – and he’s still getting used to playing for someone other than his dad in college.
That someone is first-time coordinator Wesley Goodwin, who served as Brent’s right-hand man in an off-field role for the last handful of years.
“After I had already committed to Clemson, I never thought I wouId play for anybody else,” Tyler said. “I was like, ‘All right, I guess I’m playing for my dad.’ And this (situation with my dad leaving) ended up turning out like it did. But it’s been awesome actually to watch Coach Wes take command and get to really understand his brain and his thinking. He’s actually a really smart dude, so it’s been cool.”
After being used primarily as a third safety in certain packages when his dad was calling the shots, Tyler said he isn’t sure exactly how he’ll be implemented in Goodwin’s defense. There’s plenty of competition for playing time on the back end of the defense with fellow upperclassmen R.J. Mickens and Jalyn Phillips still around as well as Andrew Mukuba, a freshman All-American last season, and true freshmen Sherrod Covil and Kylon Griffin at the position.
But Venables, who’s healthy again after having two surgeries on a torn pectoral muscle this spring, is still vying for it at a place he’s all too familiar with.
“It’s simple. It’s easy,” Tyler said. “Clemson is an amazing place, so I was like, ‘Why would I ever want to leave something like this?’ Even though it was amazing to play for him for two years. It was a great experience. Not many people get to do that, play for their father on the Division I stage. I had a great two years with him, but this was my place to stay.’”
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