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Clemson looks to keep winning with new staff

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 09 Clemson Spring Game

CLEMSON, SC - APRIL 09: Dabo Swinney head coach of Clemson during the annual Orange and White Spring football game on April 9, 2022 at Clemson Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. (Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

CLEMSON, S.C. - Change can bring chaos. It can also bring excitement. And new Clemson offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter believes it’s a hungry, energized team that has embraced the Tigers’ new leaders.

“Anytime you have a new starter, a fresh start with new people, new faces, it’s something different,” said Streeter, who takes control of the offense after Tony Elliott left to become Virginia’s head coach.

“When there’s something different,” Streeter continued, “there’s usually some excitement to it, too.”

The Tigers wrapped up spring workouts with their annual Orange-White game on a cold, windy Saturday at Death Valley.

It was the first chance for Clemson’s new leadership and staff to showcase their ability to guide the Tigers, who have had 10 or more wins for 11 consecutive seasons.

Along with Elliott, ex-Clemson analyst Wes Goodwin and safeties coach Mickey Conn are co-defensive coordinators after longtime leader Brent Venables became Oklahoma’s coach.

Former Clemson center Thomas Austin, an offensive analyst last year, is the first year offensive line coach after Robbie Caldwell moved to an off-the-field position in the program.

Kyle Richardson took over Clemson’s tight ends, a position Elliott coached last season.

And former Tigers defensive end Nick Eason was hired to coach defensive tackles in place of Todd Bates, who followed Venables to Oklahoma.

It’s a lot to absorb for the Tigers, whose staff stability has been a large part of their success with six Atlantic Coast Conference titles and national championships after the 2016 and 2018 seasons.

“It’s rare to have these coaches and this coaching staff together and tight knit for so long,” said defensive end K.J. Henry, in his fifth season with the Tigers. “This is not our norm. But at the same time, it’s been easy because they’re Clemson guys.”

Goodwin and Conn’s defense had the edge on Streeter’s offense. The two defenses combined for nine sacks in the first half on quarterbacks in junior D.J. Uiagalelei and freshman Cade Klubnik. Both teams combined for minus 31 rushing the first 30 minutes.

The 37-year-old Goodwin was seen by outsiders as the surprise hire. But he’s been a behind-the-scenes star for the Tigers, both as a defensive analyst from 2012-2014 and, after three years with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, a senior, off-the-field assistant from 2018-21.

Clemson has been a regular among the nation’s best defensive teams during Venables’ 10 years leading the group. Goodwin is ready to show the critics he can keep the Tigers’ strong defense going.

“We got some stuff (Brent Venables) don’t know about,” Goodwin said last month. “I’ve been other places and we know ball as well.”

Goodwin is a different voice than Venables, but one who knows what he’s talking about just like the defense’s former coach, said defensive end Myles Murphy.

“Coach V is very rowdy, loud, he likes the aggressiveness,” said Murphy, a junior. “Coach Wes is the same way. He’s not going to yell 24-7, but he will get you a defense that’s very loud and very aggressive and we still get to the ball.”

That was evident Saturday as both offenses were held to a combined total of 329 yards. Henry and Murphy combined for 6 1/2 sacks, although play was halted when the defensive linemen came close to the quarterbacks.

Tight end Jake Briningstool said elevating Streeter as the leader on offense made the hand-off simple because he’d long been part of the offensive gameplan.

Briningstool said the adjustment started in Clemson’s 20-13 win over Iowa State in the Cheez-it Bowl last December and has only improved this spring. “It’s kind of heading in the right direction for the tight end position and offense as a whole. I’m really excited about the future.”

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney enjoyed dipping in and out of offensive and defensive meetings, observing the interaction.

“There’s a lot of trust and respect with these players and this staff,” Swinney said. “It’s going to be fun.”