Kelly, Venables tie Clemson to Kansas

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Brent Venables grew up in Salina and has become one of the nation’s top defensive coordinators.

Venables, the former Oklahoma defensive coordinator and current Clemson defensive coordinator, graduated from Salina South.

On Monday, Clemson will face Alabama for the second straight year for college football’s national championship.

Additionally, two players with Kansas ties are redshirts on the Tiger roster. Wichita East’s defensive end Xavier Kelly, the state’s top recruit last season, was recruited by Venables and Clemson assistant Marion Hobby.

Olathe North safety Isaiah Simmons was also recruited by Venables. Kelly and Simmons were the first Clemson signees from the state of Kansas since Jason Gamble in 1996.

Kelly impressed early as a true freshman in camp. Then, he was involved in a moped accident shortly before the season’s first game. Venables told Clemson media that Kelly, who was not at fault, was lucky to be alive.

Not recruited by any major schools, Venables went to Garden City Community College where he collected 276 tackles in two seasons and collected All-American honors.

Bob Stoops, the veteran Oklahoma coach and then the Kansas State linebackers coach, noticed Venables. He signed with the Wildcats and started at middle linebacker where he earned All-Big Eight honorable mention and had 124 stops. Stoops convinced Venables to stay with the Wildcats, where he eventually coached three years. Then, Venables coached 13 years with the Sooners and Stoops before he’s played a huge role in Clemson’s rise.

Venables took over as defensive coordinator after Clemson permitted 70 points to West Virginia in an Orange Bowl loss after the 2011 season. He delivered a big defensive turnaround for 2012 and coached a top-25 defense in ’13.

In ’14, Clemson had the No. 1 defense in the country. Last season, the Tigers were top-5 in multiple defensive statistics, including tackles per game.

Known for his constant passion, Venables took on another unique role for Clemson this season: scout-team quarterback. Venables, who calls himself “Jimmy Greenbeans” when he is the scout team quarterback, has had the position all year after he was frustrated with the performance of the scout team signal caller.

Also known as an expert recruiter, Venables has consistently reloaded a defense that has often had attrition from high draft picks.

This season, Venables won the Broyles Award as the country’s top assistant coach. Clemson ranks eighth overall in defense this season.

Next to quarterback DeShaun Watson, a two-time Heisman finalist, the growth of a youth Clemson defensive line that features true freshman Dexter Lawrence is often cited as the main reason for the Tigers again reaching the title game. Clemson has one national title, in 1981.