There was a reason Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney and the Clemson administration were so persistent in trying to land former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables. Coming off a 70-33 loss to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, Swinney knew a change was needed with the team’s defensive identity.
Venables was the man for the job. But anybody who has followed Venables in his lengthy time at Kansas State and Oklahoma knows Venables hasn’t simply been one of the best position coaches of the last 15 years.
When Venables -- now the defensive coordinator for the Tigers -- hits the recruiting trail, he hits it hard. But even the most ardent Clemson supporters couldn’t have foreseen such an impact mere months into his tenure.
Nkemdiche, who is 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, is the No. 1-ranked overall prospect in the ESPN 150.
Chalk up another one for Venables, who has been on a roll on the recruiting trail. Clemson was already in good shape with two ESPN 150 defensive prospects before Nkemdiche.
Venables, known for his work with linebackers, has been able to snag the No. 6 outside linebacker in Dorian O’Daniel (Olney, Md./Good Counsel) and the No. 3 inside linebacker Ben Boulware (Anderson, S.C./T.L. Hanna). O’Daniel is ranked No. 76 in the ESPN 150, while Boulware is No. 133.
Nothing, though, can compare to the impact of getting Nkemdiche. Venables is showing that although he is in another location, he can still produce the big-time results. Venables attended Nkemdiche’s spring game in May and has played a big role in such a limited time in the Nkemdiche pursuit.
Venables has always been known as a player’s coach. It has shown on the field and it remains evident on the recruiting trail.
Venables prowess wasn’t just limited to the defensive side of the ball with the Sooners. One of his most successful recruiting grabs is running back Demarco Murray. Most recruiting experts had a feeling Murray would prosper, but it was still major news when Venables was able to land Murray. Murray, from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, was thought to be a future USC Trojan before Venables came around and changed all that.
Need more proof? Simply look at this year’s NFL draft. Two of OU’s top players, cornerback Jamell Fleming and defensive end Ronnell Lewis, were selected and both were recruited by Venables.
Fleming went in the third round to the Arizona Cardinals, and Lewis was a fifth-round selection by the Detroit Lions.
And when the talent gets to campus, Venables has shown he can bring them to the next level. Linebackers Curtis Lofton and Travis Lewis weren’t originally recruited by Venables. But under his tutelage, they have found a home in the NFL.
Lofton will be entering his first season with the New Orleans Saints, and Lewis was drafted in the seventh round of this year’s draft by the Lions.
So for Clemson fans, Venables’ best is yet to come. And any doubts about the Tigers finding the right man for the job are gone as Venables’ impact is being felt at Clemson months before the Tigers have even taken the field for the 2012 season.