The Tribune (SLO) - - Sports - evolve and know the quar­ter­backs are re­ally de­vel­oped. You have to be ready to not ac­cept it, but deal with it, and move on to the next play.” AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Wake For­est in 2017 and Elko did such a good job turn­ing around the Ir­ish de­fense that Texas A&M gave him a three-year con­tract worth more than $1.8 mil­lion an­nu­ally.

Kelly pro­moted 37-yearold Clark Lea to re­place Elko and the Fight­ing Ir­ish de­fense took an­other step for­ward this sea­son, rank­ing eighth na­tion­ally in yards per play al­lowed (4.53)

While Ven­ables coaches like a sug­ared-up 10-yearold who can barely stay off the field dur­ing the games, Lea is pro­fes­so­rial in his de­meanor and ap­proach.

“We joke a lot they we def­i­nitely chose the wrong side (of the ball) to do it,” Lea said Wed­nes­day. “It’s a lot more fun to be an of­fen­sive coach these days. The chal­lenges in­herit in de­fend­ing mod­ern of­fense re­quire some abil­ity to process and think and be cre­ative. And I think that’s a fun part of what we do. It’s a game of strat­egy.”

But, Lea added: “It’s not about be­ing schemat­i­cally cuter than the team you’re play­ing. It’s about get­ting your play­ers in po­si­tions where they’re con­fi­dent and they’re play­ing with great fun­da­men­tals and they’re play­ing re­ally fast and they’re cov­er­ing spa­ces. De­fense is still about your guy get­ting off a block and mak­ing a tackle and you can’t de­vi­ate from that. Even as it be­comes bas­ket­ball on grass.”

Ven­ables could have been a head coach by now but he can af­ford with be picky, with a great salary and a boss in Dabo Swin­ney who has built Clemson into Alabama’s big­gest chal­lenger for col­lege foot­ball supremacy. But for most de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors, get­ting a chance to run a pro­gram has been dif­fi­cult.

Over the last two years there have been 42 coaches hired in FBS and 34 have had of­fen­sive back­grounds, a fact pointed out re­cently by Foot­ball Scoop. Work­ing for Alabama coach Nick Sa­ban seems to help.

The Tide is also on its third de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in three years as Tosh Lupoi was pro­moted after last sea­son to re­place Jeremy Pruitt, who is now Ten­nessee’s head coach. Pruitt got the job when Kirby Smart left to lead Ge­or­gia in 2016.

Ok­la­homa de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ruf­fin McNeill spent years coach­ing de­fense for Mike Leach at Texas Tech be­fore be­com­ing a head coach at his alma mater, East Carolina.

After be­ing fired at ECU, coach Lin­coln Ri­ley brought McNeill to Ok­la­homa in 2017 to be de­fen­sive line coach.

Ri­ley turned to the 60year-old McNeill in Oc­to­ber to try the Soon­ers’ de­fense after Mike Stoops was fired.

Ok­la­homa ranks 101st na­tion­ally in yards per play al­lowed (6.03).

Es­pe­cially in the wideopen and wild Big 12, a de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor needs drown out the crit­i­cism and not get too down about those gaudy scores.

“As a play-caller or a de­fen­sive coach, you’ve got to make sure you keep things in per­spec­tive and re­spect it and know there’s a good chance they can put some points on the board,” McNeill said.

“But you can’t caught up into wor­ry­ing about it too much. The de­fen­sive thought process has to be get the ball back to your of­fense. Break serve. Of course, as a de­fen­sive guy all his life, 38 years of coach­ing, you’d like to have a zero.

“But at the same time you’ve got to be ready to

AP file photo

In 2013, Syra­cuse lineback­ers coach Clark Lea cel­e­brates a win. Led by co­or­di­na­tor Lea, Notre Dame’s de­fense ranks eighth na­tion­ally in yards per play al­lowed (4.53).

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