Toughest job in today’s game might be defensive coordinator
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables began his coaching career at Kansas State in the mid-1990s, trying to come up with ways to stop Nebraska’s power option. The Cornhuskers were predictable, but often darn near unstoppable.
So as far as Venables is concerned, coaching defenses has always been challenging. Over 25 years in the business, the challenges have only increased as offenses have become more varied and multiple. Touchdowns and yards have never been more plentiful. FBS records for yards per play, touchdowns per game and points per game set last season are again being challenged in 2018.
“I love the challenge,” said Venables, who has had a top-20 defense each of the last five years at Clemson. “Doesn’t mean I always like the result, but I love the challenge.”
As offenses hum along, defensive coordinator has become the toughest job in college football, often the targets for frustrated fans whose teams just can’t seem to get a stop. No. 4 Oklahoma reached the College Football Playoff, where the Sooners will face No. 1 Alabama on Saturday in the Orange Bowl, after replacing its defen- sive coordinator halfway through the season.
And when schools are looking for their next head coach, they have been far more likely in recent years to hire the upcoming offensive guru than a guy with a defensive background. On the bright side for defensive coordinators, the pay is great. This season nine of the 10 highest paid assistant coaches in college football were on the defensive side, along with 16 of the 21 assistants who made more than $1 million in salary, according to USA Today’s salary database.
Venables is No. 2 on that list at $2.2 million, behind LSU’s Dave Aranda ($2.5 million). Venables and No. 2 Clemson face No. 3 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl in Saturday’s first CFP semifinal. The Fighting Irish are on their third d-coordinator in three years in Clark Lea. In 2016, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly fired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder during a 4-8 season. Kelly hired Mike Elko away from
Clemson defensive coach Brent Venables, being pulled back by an assistant, has had a top-20 defense each of the last five years.