Clemson looks to keep winning with new staff

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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.”

Air Force football sanctioned for recruiting violations

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AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Air Force football program received two years of probation from the NCAA and had its squad size reduced by 10 for four years as part of its sanctions for recruiting violations.

The penalties were announced Thursday after Air Force and four individuals reached an agreement with NCAA enforcement staff on recruiting violations. A fifth individual in the case has contested their role and will be heard by the committee on infractions.

The sanctions also include a fine and a reduction of 46 total official visits for the football program in the 2022-23 and `23-24 academic years. In addition, there’s a prohibition on unofficial visits in football from Sept. 1 through Oct. 12, 2022, and a reduced number of evaluation days this fall.

Air Force has around 115 players on its varsity roster, plus a JV team that all count as NCAA athletes and its roster size.

“The (committee) appreciates the parties’ efforts in working collaboratively together to reach agreement on the violations, levels, classifications, and significant and meaningful penalties,” Gary Miller, the chief hearing officer for the panel and president at Akron, said in a statement. “The panel also recognizes that Air Force has gone above and beyond in its overall approach to this case.”

In a joint statement, Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark and director of athletics Nathan Pine said: “The U.S. Air Force Academy is pleased that our case has progressed to the point of the NCAA accepting our negotiated resolution. We will continue working with the NCAA on this ongoing self-reported case from the COVID dead period, as it’s our responsibility to ensure integrity of the institution, athletics department, cadet-athletes and staff.”

The Falcons are off to a 3-1 start and host Navy on Saturday to begin the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition. The trophy is presented to the service academy with the best record in the round-robin format.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”