When former Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables left that post to become the new head coach at Oklahoma last December, Dabo Swinney initially assumed that Venables’ son Tyler would be heading to Norman with Brent.
Instead, Tyler ultimately opted to stick around at Clemson and now heads into his junior season as a safety for the Tigers. Although Swinney didn’t think at first that he’d have Tyler on his team this year, Clemson’s head coach is glad he does.
Swinney met with the media following Clemson’s final full scrimmage of fall camp Wednesday and was asked if he knew how difficult Tyler’s decision about whether to stay at Clemson or go to Oklahoma was for him, given the emotional pull and the father-son bond he shares with his dad.
“I mean, I’m sure it was hard. I thought he was going to go,” Swinney said. “I mean, I just kind of assumed. He and his dad are close. But I said, ‘What are you going to do?’ And he’s like, ‘Well I’m staying.’ And I’m like, ‘Well awesome!’ So, I didn’t want to assume anything, but I thought emotionally he probably would be (leaving).”
Just as Swinney initially thought Tyler would leave for Oklahoma, Tyler initially thought he wanted to transfer to continue playing for his dad, too.
But after taking a couple of days to mull things over more following his father’s departure, Tyler told his father that he was staying put at Clemson.
“He was just listening to what I had to say and what I thought,” Tyler told reporters earlier this week. “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.”
According to Swinney, while he was certainly excited about Tyler’s decision, Brent was even happier.
“Brent was even more excited that he was staying, because Brent knows what we have here and he knows the structure,” Swinney said. “They’re trying to get that and trying to build that, but you don’t do that overnight, and he knows the people in our building and what all he’s exposed to.”
“Plus, T-Bone has got a lot of friends on this team,” Swinney added, calling Tyler by his nickname. “This is a really close team and a close group of guys.”
Since joining Clemson’s program in 2020 as an in-state standout out of nearby Daniel High School, Tyler has tallied 61 tackles (4.5 for loss), a sack, an interception and six pass breakups in 476 snaps over 24 games (two starts) in his first two seasons as a Tiger.
Healthy again after having two surgeries on a torn pectoral muscle this spring, Tyler is now playing for someone other than this dad — new Clemson defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin — and Tyler seems to be thriving thus far in preseason practices.
Swinney said Tyler has been the most productive safety in fall camp in terms of production points and played well again in Wednesday’s scrimmage.
“He’s probably been the most productive guy,” Swinney said. “I think he had 39 production points in the first scrimmage, and then showed up again today. He’s really playing well for us, and it’s good to see him healthy and flying around.”
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