Clemson primed to be college football’s next dynasty

CLEMSON, SC - SEPTEMBER 2: Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence
CLEMSON, SC - SEPTEMBER 2: Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence /
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Clemson /

Defense wins championships

Under DC Brent Venables, Clemson’s defense has been nothing short of outstanding. They rank third in the nation in total defense so far in 2017, giving up just 227 yards per game.

Last season they finished 8th, in 2015 they were 10th, in 2014 they were the number one defense in all of college football. You get the picture by now.

Venables produces elite defenses by the year. The 46-year-old was named the top assistant coach in the country last season and deservedly so. Despite NFL teams picking key players in their massive from Venables’ unit, he continues to put elite defenses on the field that can win games for his team.

Vic Beasley, Stephone Anthony, Shaq Lawson, Bashad Breeland, Grady Jarrett and Mackensie Alexander are just a handful of standout NFL players that have been drafted since Venables took over.

In all, 14 defensive players have left for the NFL since the former Oklahoma DC has been in charge. The fact that he has put three straight top ten defenses on the field is quite frankly baffling.

After losing seven starters to the draft in 2015 following their national championship loss to Alabama one would’ve expected a down turn in playing level. But, as we know, the 2016 group was outstanding. They helped secure Clemson a title whilst finishing 10th in scoring defense, third in sacks and fifth in opponents’ yards-per-play.

Again in 2017 the Tigers defense is a swarming, ruthless one. They suffocated Auburn for four quarters, recording 11 sacks.

They single-handedly ended Lamar Jackson’s Heisman bid, forcing the dynamic playmaker into completing less than half his passes and throwing a game ending pick six.

Clemson is 64-9 since Venables arrived in 2012 from Oklahoma. On the back of a 2011 season in which they gave up over 29 points a game, help was needed and they sure got it.

The way Venables is able to consistently recreate elite, versatile defenses is phenomenal and puts Clemson in a strong position going forward. The loss of individuals simply doesn’t hamper them.

The luxury this creates for an offense which is rebuilding to an extent, means Kelly Bryant and co can take their time to gel because the defense can win them games. Much the same way as Saban’s defense in Alabama operates in an almost faceless manner, Venables’ Tigers are a carve and copy.

The only worry for Clemson’s ability to sustain this level of defense is the fact that Venables could leave. He is certainly worthy of a head coaching job or a stint in the NFL and who would prevent him that chance should a good offer appear.

The outstanding personnel would take over should this happen though. Alabama has been able survive multiple coordinator changes because of their personnel on the field and this is where Swinney’s recruiting comes into play again.

Clemson is blessed with a plethora of defensive talent that could be around for a while yet. Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Austin Bryant, Kendall Joseph and co. could all return next season if they so choose.

With another strong recruiting class likely in 2018, don’t expect that future to be cut short any time soon.