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Wes Goodwin: Dabo Swinney's International Man of Mystery

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New Clemson Coordinator is about to introduce himself to the college football world.

New Clemson Coordinator will introduce himself to the college football world. In 2008, Clemson reacted to the resignation of Tommy Bowden 6 games into their season. They did so by tagging a rising WR coach Dabo Swinney who recently had become assistant head coach with the interim head coach tag. A decade later, the faith of the Clemson administration was rewarded with unparalleled success. Part of that partnership Swinney had in turning Clemson into arguably the best program in the country outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was Brent Venables. The latter was an integral part of Swinney's foundation with Clemson. Venables took the Oklahoma coaching job before Clemson's game against Iowa State in the Cheez-It Bowl. Swinney tabbed a little-known Wes Goodwin as his new defensive coordinator. A man who learned under Venables and spent time with Bruce Arians in Arizona.

Is there a sequel brewing in Clemson? 


Wes Goodwin is a Mississippi State alumnus earning his undergrad and graduate degrees in Starkville. He got into coaching at Mississippi State but not in football first but in baseball. 

Goodwin started coaching under Hall of Fame baseball coach Ron Polk as a student assistant. Word got to the Mississippi State football coach Sylvester Croom about Goodwin's desire to coach football. His work ethic with the baseball team was the referral needed to be a student assistant with the Bulldogs.

Transition to Football

Croom said Scott Keepfer's article in the Greenville (SC) News, "He started with Coach Polk, but he wanted to get into football and Ellis Johnson and those guys came to me about bringing him on," said Croom. "He really did a great job for us. I kept up with him over the years. Now he gets a chance to be a coordinator. Dabo Swinney said years ago that if this ever came about, he would make Wes the guy. He made that decision years ago, and he stuck by it. It says a lot about Dabo to recognize talent and not be afraid to promote somebody on his staff that he knows well regardless of what the experts might think."

Goodwin would leave Mississippi State to take a graduate assistant position at Clemson. From 2009-to 2011 and receive a promotion to a defensive analyst under Brent Venables from 2012-to 2014. 

The Venture into the NFL

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In 2015 Goodwin took a chance working in the NFL with Bruce Arians and the Arizona Cardinals. Arians saw the brilliance of Goodwin early in his tenure he moved Goodwin's office next to his. In Chris Low's article for ESPN, Arians said, " I'm sure many people might wonder who he is, but he's one of the brightest people I've been around in coaching," Arians told ESPN. "He's ready to go, man. He's going to be aggressive, and people who don't already know are going to know soon enough what kind of football coach he is."

Arians would comment on Goodwin's attention to detail in preparation."He used to sit there and had a book and would draw every blitz run in the NFL that week, and he would compile all these blitzes and could formationally change it. He knew the adjustments to each blitz and added so much to our game plans. I think some of the guys on our staff were shocked how much he added to our game plans." He doesn't forget anything. He's as sharp as a tack and is going to do a hell of a job."

The Return to Clemson

When Arians stepped down due to health, Dabo Swinney went to Woody McCorvey, Clemson's Chief of Football Administration. The goal was to rehire Wes Goodwin. 

Goodwin returned to Clemson in 2018 as a Senior Defensive Analyst to then Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables. Goodwin began to aid in the architecting with Venables. The result was an all-time defense in 2018 consisting of Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence, Isaiah Simmons, and A.J. Terrell. Each of these players was drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. 

When Venables accepted the Oklahoma position, people around the sport knew who Venables number 1 target was, "I know this: Brent thought the world of Wes and what he'd meant to that defense, and that's why he wanted to take him with him to Oklahoma," said Ellis Johnson, former Mississippi State Defensive Coordinator, said to Chris Low, who mentored Wes Goodwin, noting that Goodwin had other opportunities to leave in recent years.

What to expect from the 2022 Clemson Defense

Longtime and venerable former Clemson linebacker James Skalski endorsed Wes Goodwin. Skalski said, "He's been right there for years, chopping wood, being Coach V's right-hand man. I have the most confidence in the world that things are going to keep going the way they're going. I'm excited for someone like Wes to get this opportunity and kind of just show everyone the kind of coach he is and the kind of game he's going to call." 

The defense is looking to stay healthy. Because the injury bug was a big problem in 2021. However, Clemson managed to have a top 10 defense nationally and was the No. 2 scoring defense. 
Returning to Clemson is junior WILL linebacker Trenton Simpson, a significant disruptor in the front seven. Joining him in the linebacker core is Jeremiah Trotter Jr., a sophomore from St. Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia. On the defensive line front, Myles Murphy and Xavier Thomas will crash the edges. Bryan Bresee, the junior defensive tackle, returns from an ACL injury, and Tyler Davis, the senior nose tackle. Davis is talented and aims to replicate the Jordan Davis impact he had at Georgia. 

Brent Venables returned to watch his old team practice and scrimmage during the spring, Goodwin said in Todd Shanesy's article in the Greenville (SC) News. "I think I saw him (Venables)  over there," Goodwin said he hasn't talked much to his former mentor, and both men had priorities for their programs. 

Goodwin said, "We've got some stuff that BV doesn't know about." While Brent Venables doesn't know all the stuff Goodwin has prepared, neither do we, but we are about to find out soon enough. Dabo Swinney has always found ways to find talented coaches and hire them from within. Will he do it again?