Co-defensive coordinators Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn have big shoes to fill as the duo takes over for the departed Brent Venables. Venables spearheaded the defensive game plans in the Tigers recent National Championship campaigns and earned a reputation as one of the brightest coordinators in the country on his way back to Oklahoma to replace Lincoln Riley as head coach. In Venables’ decade at the helm of Clemson’s defense, the Tigers rank first nationally in sacks (445), opponent’s third-down conversions (30.2%) and third in scoring defense (17.8). But Goodwin and Conn have a solid working relationship and got off to a great start in Clemson’s Cheez-It Bowl victory to close out the 2021 campaign.
Goodwin thinks the strengths of this defense will be its speed at all three levels and defensive line depth. Defensive tackles coach Nick Eason echoed Goodwin’s sentiments and said this year’s defensive line group, featuring Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy, has “dudes across the board.” Eason has complete confidence in Goodwin, even comparing him to the legendary Dick Lebeau, whom Eason played for during his NFL career.
In order to keep its string of elite defensive performances going, however, Clemson will need to find a way to replace the leadership and production of safety Nolan Turner and linebacker James Skalski.