Venables says Clemson defense leaving too much "meat on the bone"

by - Senior Writer -
Clemson's defense was a mixed bag against Notre Dame. (Photo courtesy ACC)
Clemson's defense was a mixed bag against Notre Dame. (Photo courtesy ACC)

Brent Venables doesn’t do anything halfway. Not football. Not eating. Not anything. So when it comes to his defense, he knows his group won’t get where they want to go by leaving meat on the bone. It’s unacceptable.

Clemson is ranked 13th nationally in total defense (305.1 yards per game) and sits at No. 18 in scoring defense (19.5 points per game). The Tigers are 24th in rush defense (113.8 yards per game), and 25th in pass defense (191.6 yards per game). Those numbers are higher than in years’ past, and even though Clemson still sits in the top five nationally in tackles for loss (9.13 yards per game) and sacks (3.75 per game), Venables feels like his defense is leaving too many plays out on the field.

In other words, too much meat on the bone.

"What we are trying to get our guys to understand is you can't leave meat on the bone,” Venables said Monday. "We are somewhere in the top 15 (nationally) on third-down, but we should be in the top 5 in my opinion. We have to get better to make a run at this. We have to improve. We are a good unit right now. We are not great unit. We have had some great moments, but we are not a suffocating unit yet."

Venables then said that while his defense has been disruptive, he still feels like there is more meat on the bone.

“I think it's kind of been a mixed bag. It's never as good as you want,” Venables said. “We have left meat on the bone virtually every week. The numbers are very similar (to past years) in knocking the quarterback down and sacks... if past years' stats are an indicator, I would guess somewhere in the top 10 (nationally) in being disruptive.

"You've had to find different ways because of some of the injuries. Really proud of the guys that have been learning on the fly and baptized into it. Incredibly pleased. Not always pleased with the result play-to-play but big picture with effort and end result.”

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday that while the defense didn’t do a good job of affecting Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book, he believes they are still one of the best units in the country.

"We have done OK. This past game he had his way. We did not affect him at all. He held the ball, ran around, scrambled and it was a problem,” Swinney said. “Overall, heck, we are still one of the best sack and TFL teams in the country and have been for a long time. We are 7-1 and lost in double overtime to a really good team at their place. We have done a pretty good job for the most part. They come out and scored within 15 seconds but didn't score a touchdown (on the defense) in the next 59 minutes.

"We had our worst game in third-down offensively and defensively. Outside of that game, we have been pretty good. We have missed a bunch of missed tackles and opportunities missed to get guys on the ground, but those games were different."

The defense will have its hands full this week with Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis.

“The thing about Jordan Travis, he’s like Lamar Jackson as a runner. He’s unbelievable,” Venables said. “He’s a special athlete. They really pushed Notre Dame to the brink and he made some great plays.”

Like Swinney, Venables believes his defense can move past the loss to the Irish.

"We weren't precise enough or good enough when we had to be vs. Notre Dame. We needed a couple plays in bunches there, but we just weren't good enough or able to do that,” Venables said. “Plenty of warts along the way, but by and large along the season, very pleased with the progress made along the way.

"At corner, we have first-world problems, but still playing is playing and experience is experience. We haven't had the same cornerback roster week-to-week, and that matters. In the past, we've had a couple of bonafide dudes that can play at a really high consistent level that can make all the layups and play with correct leverage, and that was acquired over time. You want to play better (at corner) and you want a little better pass-rush and eliminate some of the explosive plays."

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