|by David Hood|
Included in that was last Saturday’s 49-42 victory by Alabama – long a defensive stalwart - a game in which the Crimson Tide gave up the 42 points and 628 yards to the Aggies.
This week, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables faces N.C. State and new head coach Dave Doeren. Last season at Northern Illinois, Doeren’s offense finished the season ranked 20th nationally in total offense.
Venables was asked Tuesday if he was concerned that defenses may not catch up to the new offenses, and he said no.
"I don't really get consumed with that and I don't spend much time thinking that way,” Venables said. “Your job as a defensive coach is to create disruption, stop people and get the ball back. I don't have that measuring stick. I'm very disappointed if we don't stop them on every play. That's our expectation. If they gain four yards on any play, unless it's third and 30 and we're dropping eight, it's unacceptable.
“I don't think you can build in excuses for failure. You start justifying failure, you're going to have a lot of problems and guys won't be nearly as invested. Hopefully in life you get what you demand. If you don't quite get it, then maybe you're close. That's what I'm more consumed with as opposed to closing the gap, quote-unquote. You don't say, 'Well we can't win this match-up.' I'm not sure any coaches think that way."
Wolfpack offensive coordinator Matt Canada coached with Doeren at Northern Illinois in 2011, but was the offensive coordinator for the Wisconsin Badgers last season. As a result, Venables said the Wolfpack are similar to what both of those schools ran last season.
"It's a combination of Northern Illinois and Wisconsin. That's what we've seen up to this point,” he said. “As everyone does in the offseason, we looked at that and meshed together what they do. A lot of those offensive guys go to the same offensive clinics and share ideas. A lot of things are happening pre-snap as far as movement is concerned. They will challenge us again mentally and force us to have great discipline, how we're aligning and what adjustments are. We'll have to stay on top of everything, have everyone accounted for and defend the run."
The Pack will be without quarterback Brandon Mitchell, who won the starting job during fall camp, after he injured his foot in the season opener. He was replaced by Pete Thomas, who was a two-year starter at Colorado St. before transferring to N.C. State.
"He's got game experience. He won't get overwhelmed. He has started a bunch of games and has been successful as a college quarterback and has been effective thus far,” Venables said of Thomas. “I see a quarterback who has strong accuracy and good precision. They say he's not a runner and not a thrower, but he extended a number of drives last week when coverage was tight because he pulled it down and moved the chains. I think he's smart and has good pocket awareness. He was pulling it down when lanes were there and showed some savvy in that Richmond game. Richmond is traditionally strong on defense and sound in what they do and he got them in that two-minute situation and made some great throws. That's always concerning. He manages things the right way and takes what defenses give him. He will be patient in his decision making."
Evaluating Clemson’s front seven
"Pretty good. You want more. Again just improvement and pad level and discipline, eye control and tackling. You want to continue to develop more guys who can rush the passer. When we do pressure, be more precise, more violent, more sure of ourselves. We have to continue to progress in a lot of things. It's been good enough to get to 2-0 but we have to continue to improve."
Defensive line rotation
“I think the thing that we've been able to display through two games is there is some competitive depth there that you like. Not everybody is the same. We're trying to massage from a percentage standpoint who's getting what. Sometimes you go with the hot hand and sometimes you go with how guys perform during the week. That'll be something we continue to evaluate throughout the season based on performance."
"I think you have to recruit more intelligent players to do what you're saying. If you're trying to keep up with the offense and the offenses that are out there today, their ability to check the sideline to get info, their whole line of thinking is that they're not going to get into negative plays. It's like poker tournaments on T.V. What if you could see everyone's hand and they couldn't see yours? That would be a huge advantage and you'd win a lot of money. That's an offensive advantage now. You try to be more precise in what you're doing. If you're going to be effective, players have to be an extension of you when you face those types of teams. There has to be a pre-snap diagnosis that has to happen like that (snapping fingers). You're seeing offenses winning those battles more often than not, whether they're taking advantage of a coverage where you're soft or something else. Sometimes maybe you auto-call formations."
On his cornerbacks
"They're practicing better. What's transpired in practice has happened on game day. They're far from perfect but I like our ability to communicate back there. It's better. They've shown more aggressiveness. They've tackled better. And we're always working on all those things. We want everyone to be better on defense, but those are the biggest things. There's better discipline."
David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org