Coaching turnover has Clemson entering Cheez-It Bowl matchup with familiar faces in new roles

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  • Brent Venables
    Brent Venables
    American football player and coach
  • Brandon Streeter
    American football coach

After more than a decade of relative stability among the coaching staff at Clemson, the Tigers are experiencing an offseason of dramatic changes.

Gone are longtime defensive coordinator Brent Venables and offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, lured to head coaching opportunities, respectively, at Oklahoma and Virginia.

The pair were significant components to the program, winning six straight ACC titles and appearing in six consecutive College Football Playoff semifinals, claiming national championships in 2016 and 2018.

Rather than hire new coordinators from outside the program, coach Dabo Swinney reshuffled his current coaching staff, elevating coaches Brandon Streeter (offensive coordinator), Wes Goodwin (co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach) and Mikey Conn (co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach) to fill those coordinator spots.

Wednesday’s Cheez-It Bowl against Iowa State is the first opportunity for the veteran coaches to showcase their new roles.

“The transition has been really good,” said Streeter, who spent the past seven years as Clemson’s quarterback coach and recruiting coordinator. “You have a staff of, first off, great people that know how to work and have been a part of this thing. Hiring from within and promoting from within allows you to keep the camaraderie as an offensive staff.”

During Streeter’s time as recruiting coordinator, Clemson signed quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and DJ Uiagalelei. His responsibilities also included being the Tigers’ passing game coordinator last season. He previously worked as an offensive coordinator at Liberty and Richmond.

Streeter believes those experiences will benefit him during this transition.

“I’ve been in this position before,” said Streeter. “Having that comfort level of being around the people that I’m around, and then them having trust in me, gives me a lot of confidence. I’ve just got to do the best I possibly can, and that’s working alongside this great staff that we have. I’m just excited about attacking the opportunity.”

Uiagalelei, who is wrapping up his first season as the Tigers’ starting quarterback, said he’s looking forward to working with Streeter in his new role.

“I’m excited,” said Uiagalelei. “Coach Streeter is the same person as he was when he recruited me and to when he was my quarterback coach and the passing game coordinator, and now as offensive coordinator. Nothing has changed, and I’m just excited for the new opportunity to work with Coach Streeter.”

Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock doesn’t expect a dramatic change in offensive philosophy by the Tigers.

“You have to prep for what you see,” said Heacock. “I don’t think you chase ghosts, and I think you do chase some. We go back through years of film, whatever we can find, but you must focus on what you think you’re seeing and what you’re getting.

“If you get caught chasing ghosts in a bowl game, it’s a long haul. We try to stick with what we think we’ve seen and who is doing what they do, and that’s what we go with.”

Goodwin and Conn have also embraced the new challenge. Both are veteran coaches who have spent valuable time under the guidance of Venables.

“We have been doing this together for a long time and when you look at our staff, we lost Coach V [Venables], that’s a big piece to lose, but Wes has been right there with him the whole time, his right-hand man,” said Conn. “I mean, drawing up every play that we have ever put in and throwing ideas galore. I mean, this guy has got a million ideas.”

Clemson linebacker James Skalski isn’t concerned with the transition and believes Goodwin is the right person for the job.

“He’s just been right chopping wood, just getting better and better and being Coach V’s right-hand man,” said Skalski. “I have the most confidence in the world that things are going to keep going the way they have been going and I’m excited for someone like Wes to get this opportunity.

Clemson finished the regular season ranked No. 10 in the country in total defense after allowing 308 yards per game. It was the seventh time in the last eight seasons that the Tigers have finished with a defense ranked in the top 10.

Even with the departure of Venables, Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Manning doesn’t expect the Tigers will deviate too far from their root defensive scheme.

“I’m sure they have had maybe some of their wrinkles that they have wanted to put in and maybe there have been some things that schematically that they are going to change,” said Manning. “But in a few weeks, I don’t know if you can dramatically change everything from a wholesale standpoint.”

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Matt Murschel at mmurschel@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @osmattmurschel.

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