Todd Bates Departs Clemson for Oklahoma, What’s Next?

The Clemson football program kept a player that they weren’t expected to on Monday and found out they will be losing another defensive coach the same afternoon.

Todd Bates, who was named the Tigers assistant head coach, after former defensive coordinator Brent Venables left for Oklahoma, is now be heading the Sooners to be co-defensive coordinator with Ted Roof. The others that Venables has taken a from the Clemson staff also include the aforementioned Roof, Miguel Chavis and Thad Turnipseed.

The 38-year-old Bates, a former Alabama team captain, had been on the Clemson staff since 2017 coaching defensive tackles and serving as recruiting coordinator, before recently being promoted by head coach Dabo Swinney.

Everybody now waits to find out whether Swinney will hire someone from outside the program, hire a former Tiger player, or promote from within like he’s been known to do.

There are at least two former players out there that check two of those three boxes. If he prefers to hire from outside, Swinney could talk to two former defensive lineman that have been coaching since their playing careers ended.

One of those would be Da’Quan Bowers, who is the defensive line coach at South Florida, under former Clemson co-defensive coordinator and current head coach Jeff Scott.

Bowers, a native of Bamberg, SC, played defensive end at Clemson from 2008-10. He helped lead the Tigers to three bowl games during his three years on the field before declaring for the NFL Draft following his junior season. He earned his bachelor’s degree in parks, recreation and tourism management in the fall of 2019 from Clemson.

He earned consensus All-America honors following his junior season at Clemson in 2010 in which he posted 67 tackles, 26 tackles for loss and led the nation with 15.5 sacks. He earned the Nagurski Award as college football’s top defensive player, the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation’s top defensive end, and the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year award while playing for the Tigers.

His college career ended with him being drafted in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he went on to play five seasons. During his NFL career he played in 53 games (10 starts for the Bucs) and had 69 tackles, seven sacks, and two fumble recoveries.

Before following Scott he worked as a grad assistant under defensive Bates at Clemson (2018–2019), mentored three defensive ends selected in the NFL Draft, and was part of Tigers teams that won two ACC Championships, made two College Football Playoff appearances, and won the CFP National Championship in 2018. 

Another former player that Swinney could reach out to would be Nick Eason. He is in his first season at Auburn as their defensive line coach.

The Lyons, Ga. native played at Clemson, where he starred on the defensive line and became the first football player in school history to graduate with two years of eligibility remaining, Eason played in 47 games with 35 starts for the Tigers and had 15 sacks along with 30 tackles for loss. He was also a team captain his junior and senior seasons and earned first-team All-ACC honors his senior season.

After his college career with the Tigers ended he was drafted in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. Eason spent 10 years in the NFL with Denver (2003), Cleveland (2004−2006), Pittsburgh (2007−2010), and Arizona (2011−2012) before beginning his coaching career.

Eason’s coaching career is really good as well. It includes the Cleveland Browns (2013) as their
assistant defensive line coach, the Tennessee Titans (2014–2015) as their assistant defensive line coach, Tennessee Titans (2016–2017)
Defensive line coach, the Cincinnati Bengals as their defensive line coach (2019–2020), and Auburn (2021–present)  as their defensive line coach.

Eason saw action in 117 games over his 10 seasons in the league and had 128 tackles, seven sacks, and one forced fumble during his career. He also won Super Bowl XLIII with the Steelers in 2009.

Whoever winds up in this job going forward takes on a position that is currently loaded with talent, as Tyler Davis, Ruke Orhorhoro, Bryan Bresee and Tre Williams are all set to return. However, the next man up will also be starting in the midst of a critical recruiting cycle for the Tigers, as the 2023 class is loaded with defensive line talent, and it’s an area of need for Clemson.

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