Venables to lead Clemson’s defense

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is betting Oklahoma coordinator Brent Venables is the man to fix a defense that was humiliated in the Orange Bowl.

The Tigers coach texted The Associated Press on Wednesday night, “BV to Clemson.” Venables will take over for Kevin Steele, who left the program because of what Swinney called “philosophical differences.”

When asked if there was anything he could add, Swinney texted back, “Just go Tigers.”

Steele’s defense has been among the country’s top 25 in yards and points given up in 2009 and 2010. That changed dramatically this season, the Tigers falling to 81st nationally after allowing more than 29 points a game this season. The capper came in the Atlantic Coast Conference champions’ first-ever BCS game when Clemson was embarrassed by West Virginia in a 70-33 defeat.

Swinney locked on to Venables early _ Oklahoma’s longtime assistant visited Clemson last weekend _ and made the hire official Wednesday night after a wild day of conflicting reports about what Venables would do.

According to Swinney, Venables is heading to Clemson.

Venables has been in charge of Oklahoma’s defense under coach Bob Stoops since 1999. Venables shared the title from through 2003, then held the job alone from 2004 through this season. Venables again became the Sooners’ co-defense coordinator when Stoops hired brother, Mike, this offseason.

Venables defenses have regularly been ranked among the country’s top 10. Linebacker under his direction have been named the Big 12 defensive player of the year five times. He’s coached Butkus Award winners Rocky Calmus in 2001 and Teddy Lehman in 2003.

This is the second straight season Swinney changed a Clemson coordinator. He can only hope Venables has the same effect on the defense next year that Tigers offense coordinator Chad Morris had this past season.

Morris took over for Billy Napier last January and his fast-paced schemes helped the Tigers to their first ACC title in 20 years. The offense set a record for points scored while first-year starting quarterback Tajh Boyd set a school record with 34 touchdown passes.

Receiver Sammy Watkins became an All-American as a freshman while tight end Dwayne Allen is a likely first-round selection in next spring’s NFL draft.

Venables will certainly have his hands full. The Tigers will lose several key players along the defense line this year, including ACC sacks leader Andre Branch and defensive tackle Brandon Thompson.

Venables will have to work with several promising yet young linebackers in rising sophomores Stephone Anthony, Tony Steward and Lateek Townsend.

Swinney said last week he wanted his next defensive coordinator to continue the Tigers’ attacking style, something Venables has done at Oklahoma.

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