CLEMSON – A raspy-voiced Brent Venables, obviously hoarse from shouting during Monday’s scrimmage in Death Valley, met with the media in the lobby of the WestZone and said he was pleased with the overall effort turned in by his defenders.

In what could only be termed as good news for Clemson fans who have witnessed a lack of productivity out of the linebacker position over the past couple of seasons, the linebackers led the defense in tackles Monday - Tig Willard, Stephone Anthony and Corico Hawkins each had six.

“We had some guys that were really showing up at the ball and playing physical,” Venables said. “As a group, we have a lot to get better at. We will have to wait and look at the film and see how clean it all was, but they all had some good and some bad. Stephone looked good. Tig showed up consistently.”

Freshman defensive back Travis Blanks – who only enrolled this past January – has found himself working with the first team at times and Venables was asked what Blanks has done that has enabled him to shoot up the depth chart as quick as he has.

“What has he done? He's worked hard. He's picked up things fairly well,” Venables said. “He's really hard on himself, very prideful. He's got high football intelligence; he’s got good instincts, plays well with his eyes. He's always ready to go every day in the meetings and on the field. You've seen him put one foot in front of the other and make improvement since he's been on campus. I've been very pleased with his progress. He gives us another athlete in space and the ability to match-up with people.”

Blanks is seeing most of his time at nickel, according to Venables.

“We're trying to get him really good at the nickel position,” he said. “Instead of bringing him in and letting him be average at a lot of things, we're trying to get him really good at one thing and go from there. He has enough flexibility to where he can do a number of different things, whether it’s corner, safety or nickel.”

Rising senior defensive end Malliciah Goodman missed the scrimmage because he was taking a test, and Venables said it was good to see some of the younger players get some reps in Goodman’s absence.


“It's going to be hard to say. I'll have to wait and see,” Venables said when he was asked about their play. “The No. 1 thing, we had some guys who maybe wouldn't have gotten as many reps, more opportunity to bring those guys along. Those guys need a lot of work there. Obviously, we know those guys have never started a game.

“In this day and age, you need guys that can rush the passer and you need guys that can set the edge. A year from now, Malliciah won't be here, so it’s better to have the opportunity to develop those guys quickly. They need to step up. We're probably going to have to rely on some of those young guys coming in. Those kids will get an opportunity to see if they can crack that two-deep because we are not very deep there.”

One of those younger players is Vic Beasley, who has bounced from tight end to linebacker to defensive end in his time as a Tiger.

I guess he hasn't played very much,” Venables said of Beasley. “He's athletic, he can rush the passer. He's gotten more physical. He understands what it is to play with technique and leverage. He's playing with discipline. I know he can do it. I guess he's got to do it every snap. That's what we're pushing for.”

As of Monday, Venables said that four players have separated themselves from the rest at defensive tackle – DeShawn Williams, Tavaris Barnes, Josh Watson and Grady Jarrett.

“Those guys have showed up a lot since we started practice,” he said. “There are four of them there that have consistently showed up – that’s not to say they are great every single play and every single day, but they are showing the ability to be disruptive and hold point. We are still trying to fine tune a lot of things. Dan [Brooks] has done a lot of good things in getting those guys ready to play so they won't be a weak link.”