Brent Venables to steer Tigers' defense

NORMAN, Okla. -- Last week, the Sooners added a defensive coordinator.

This week, they lost one.

Brent Venables, an assistant at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops since 1999, is leaving to take the defensive coordinator job at Clemson.

Venables was co-defensive coordinator at OU from 1999 to 2003, before taking over the defensive playcalling after Mike Stoops left. But last week, Bob Stoops brought his brother Mike back to the staff, relegating Venables to being a co-coordinator again.

After a brief recruiting stint with Mike Stoops to Florida, Venables flew to Clemson with his wife to meet with Tigers coach Dabo Swinney and tour the facilities. Venables returned to Oklahoma City on Sunday night, and told reporters then he had not yet taken the job.

But later in the week, Venables skipped previously scheduled recruiting trips to visit OU commitments Kevin Peterson and Daniel Brooks, raising speculation he might be on the way out.

In a radio interview Thursday with KREF-AM in Norman, Venables said the decision to leave was difficult, but the right move at the right time for his coaching career.

"I've been happy at Oklahoma," Venables told the station. "But I felt deep down this was the right thing for me to do at the right time."

"I've got a fabulous relationship with Mike Stoops and felt together we are better," Venables told the station. "I thought really we could rekindle the old magic if you will, and was really looking forward to that.

"But it was time to make a move. This could be an opportunity for me down the road to become a head coach as well," he told KREF.

Venables interviewed for the coaching job at Clemson in 2008 before the Tigers eventually hired Swinney. Now, Swinney will be counting on Venables to turn around a defense that finished No. 71 in the country in total defense and No. 81 in scoring defense, allowing 29.29 points per game.

Clemson still won its first ACC title and advanced to its first BCS bowl. But against West Virginia in the Discover Orange Bowl, the Tigers surrendered 70 points, the most points ever scored by a team in any bowl game, prompting the school to part ways with defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.

By going to Clemson, Venables could be in for a big pay raise.

After getting a pay hike in December, Tigers offensive coordinator Chad Morris is now the highest-paid assistant in college football with a salary of $1.3 million. Before being let go, Steele also was one of the nation's top-paid assistants, with a salary of $675,000.

Venables made $440,000 plus incentives last season, still making him OU's highest-paid assistant and the second highest-paid defensive coordinator in the Big 12.

Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation.