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2017 Clemson Football Season Preview: Defensive Coaching Staff

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NCAA Football: Clemson Spring Game Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The great defensive staff from Clemson saw some changes for 2017. Dan Brooks decided to retire after an amazing career as a coach while fellow DL coach Marion Hobby left for the NFL unexpectedly. In their place Dabo brought in a single coach for the DL in Todd Bates and elevated Mickey Conn to be the safeties coach. When the NCAA rule allowing a 10th coach on the field takes effect next year expect Clemson to add another coach on the defensive line.

Brent Venables - DC/LB Coach, 6th season

There isn’t much we can say about Venables that hasn’t already been said. So we’ll keep it simple. In Venables We Trust. He is the best DC in the country and it isn’t even close. Someday we’ll lose him to a head coach position. But for now we’ll enjoy him

Strengths: Everything

Weaknesses: Potential ability for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the sideline because of his excitement and passion

Todd Bates - DL Coach, 1st season

The newest member of staff, Coach Bates joins Clemson from Jacksonville State. He has the extremely difficult task of replacing Hobby and Brooks after their departures. While it is too much to hope that there won’t be a dropoff in coaching, the level of talent across the DL will give Bates an easy introduction to FBS coaching

Strengths: Even though it is early Coach Bates appears to be doing well on the recruiting trail. He was able to help secure the commitment of Darnell Jeffries who credited his easy rapport with Coach Bates as a reason for his commitment. Even though he wasn’t Xavier Thomas’ primary recruiter, Bates had to develop that relationship quickly and it certainly helped secure one of the best players in the country.

Weaknesses: Right now Bates’ ability to develop players is a question, but that is because we really just don’t know enough about it. This year should actually tell us a lot about his coaching ability given the concerns about the depth along the DL

Mike Reed - CB Coach, 5th season

Coach Reed arrived at Clemson from NC State to replace Coach Cheese. Clemson’s DBs were not exactly doing well and Dabo wanted to change directions. Reed’s arrival also coincided with an improvement in DB talent at Clemson and Reed has been able to harness that talent. With the addition of Coach Conn to the staff Reed will be able to focus solely on the CBs this year rather than having to split time.

Strengths: Yes, recruiting talented guys like Alexander and Tank have made things easy. But let’s also look at guys like Ryan Carter and Marcus Edmond. Their improvement and contributions are a result of hard work and good coaching, not great athletic ability or natural talent. Reed has the ability to teach DBs how to play and it shows.

Weaknesses: Reed is fine as a recruiter, but it isn’t really his strength. And that’s ok, just something to note.

Mickey Conn - S Coach, 1st season

Coach Conn is one of the newer arrivals on the official coaching staff, but he did spend the previous year as a defensive analyst for Clemson. Essentially Conn was a film guy breaking down opposing film as well as Clemson practice film and informing the coaches on tendencies, problems, etc.

This is Coach Conn’s first time as a college coach and it will be interesting to see how he adjusts. By splitting work at DB with Coach Reed it will help ease the transition and also allow him to improve his coaching ability.

On the recruiting side Conn shouldn’t have too much trouble. As a former high school coach he understands the game and how it works. Now he’ll just be the one selling to recruits.