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The Goodwin touch: How is Clemson’s new defensive coordinator approaching 2022?

Max Knipstein, Contributor

Clemson defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin speaks to the media at the Allen N. Reeves Football Complex.

The 2022 season will be Wes Goodwin’s first full year as Clemson’s defensive coordinator, but even with the position change, he and the players are expecting the same level of success as they’ve had in the past. 

Goodwin had a taste of his new role in the Cheez-It Bowl last December, but as this summer wrapped up, his eyes were on 2022. 

“There’s only one first time,” Goodwin said in July. “This being the first year as a coordinator, (I have) a lot of excitement, waking up at 4 a.m., just a lot of things running through your mind.”

Coaching under Brent Venables, who left Clemson last December to become Oklahoma’s head coach, Goodwin appreciates his teachings while the two were joined at the hip. 

“It’s been tremendous working with a guy for seven years who’s probably one of the greatest coordinators in college football,” Goodwin said in July. 

Still, Goodwin is aiming to bring his own approach to the position and doesn’t feel pressure to live up to what Venables accomplished in his 10 seasons at Clemson. 

Instead, Goodwin was soaking up all of Venables’ knowledge and molding it to fit his own personality. 

“My expectations for myself are greater than anyone can put on me,” Goodwin said. “I’m just going to be who I am, and at the end of the day and I can live with that.” 

While Goodwin is placing high expectations on himself, one of his players is confident the Tigers will have tremendous success under the 37-year-old, even if the styles are a bit different. 

“Wes doesn’t scream as much,” defensive end Xavier Thomas said in the spring. “He’s not as vocal and doesn’t use the language (Venables) does. But the mindset doesn’t change. Coach (Venables) left us with a great standard here. We all as players know what that standard looks like.” 

As Goodwin and the Tigers begin preparation for the season, Goodwin’s motto for his defense is to “play fast, play physical and play aggressive.” 

As a part of that motto, Goodwin is aiming to emphasize turnovers and weaponize the athleticism of his front seven, especially when it comes to the linebackers. 

“I’m not sure we’ve had a group of linebackers as athletic and fast as we potentially have this year in a long time … all those guys have put themselves in a great position to play at a higher level this fall,” Goodwin said. 

While Goodwin may be new to his official title, he is anything but a novice to coaching. 

Goodwin first joined the Tigers in 2009, cycling through various positions until 2015, when he was selected by former Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians to serve as an assistant in the NFL. He then returned to Clemson in 2018. 

With the teachings from both the NFL and collegiate level, Goodwin is confident in his abilities, even promising that fans will not be let down by the new era of the Clemson defense.

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