A work in progress

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Defensive coordinator Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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calls his defense a work in progress, but he also says he saw progress this spring and hopes that continues into the summer.

Clemson’s defense had its weak moments a year ago, especially in the secondary, but reports out of the spring practices have indicated that the group continues to build on the momentum gained in the Tigers’ 25-24 win over LSU in the bowl game.

At times on Saturday, the defense combined flashes of that progress while also showing signs of the things that plagued the group in 2012, and Venables was asked what his message would be to his players. He said his message would be to trust the process and keep working.

“It’s a process. That phase is done and here is the next phase,” Venables said. “What will make the difference is how we work and what we invest our time over the next couple of months. The leadership we have and the accountability we show will determine if we have a chance to be pretty good this fall. All of our guys have to be better than they were a year ago. I think we will. I like the attitude of our guys on both sides of the ball. I don’t think they are satisfied with where they are at, and in my experience when guys have those kinds of attitudes then they are willing to put the work in.”

Venables then said that each individual player must work on his own weaknesses.

“I am hopeful they will go work on their weaknesses,” he said. “If we do that then we have a chance to be pretty good, if we don’t then we won’t.”

He said that despite a 50-point first half by Clemson’s offense, he still considered the spring game a success and points to a stout front seven as a reason for optimism.

“Our guys played with good effort,” he said. “There were some big plays in the first half and we got away on defense injury-free so mission-accomplished there. I think we made progress. I think we’ve been talked about a lot. I feel very strongly about our front-seven. As of now, (Travis) Blanks and (Robert) Smith have really solidified themselves where they’re at (safety). It’s still a work in progress outside at the corners. There are enough guys out there and some guys coming in that we’ll have a couple of them when we get to fall camp.”

Smith led the Orange squad with seven tackles and two for loss, while Blanks added six tackles with an interception for the White, and Venables said the strength of the secondary begins with those two players.

“Our maturation at safety with Robert and Travis is key,” he said. “Travis had practiced there, but didn’t have a lot of game experience. He and Robert both seldom make the same mistake twice. That’s not something you see with a lot of guys – so their progress was pretty consistent.”

As for the linebackers, he said that both Spencer ShueySpencer Shuey
RS Sr. Linebacker
#33 6-3, 230
Charlotte, NC

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and Stephone AnthonyStephone Anthony
Jr. Linebacker
#12 6-3, 235
Polkton, NC

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showed tremendous growth this spring.

“Shuey learning how to play weakside and play at a very high level was good,” he said. “Stephone Anthony’s growth and maturation in the middle was very prevalent.”

On the defensive line

Vic BeasleyVic Beasley
RS Jr. Defensive End
#3 6-3, 225
Adairsville, GA

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and Corey CrawfordCorey Crawford
Jr. Defensive End
#93 6-5, 270
Columbus, GA

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have been consistently showing up and bringing it every day and making improvement fundamentally and leadership-wise. Tavaris BarnesTavaris Barnes
RS Jr. Defensive End
#6 6-4, 275
Jacksonville, FL

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has made a step in the right direction in his development.”

About walk-ons Dante StewartDante Stewart
RS Jr. Cornerback
#37 5-8, 185
Swansea, SC

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and Taylor WatsonTaylor Watson
RS Jr. Safety
#47 5-11, 205
Simpsonville, SC

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“They invested in the spring and the opportunities they had. They are a couple non-scholarship guys that really in our minds outperformed some other guys on a consistent basis.”

Linebacker Kellen JonesKellen Jones
Jr. Linebacker
#52 6-1, 215
Houston, TX

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, who had an interception Saturday, on his spring

"I want there to be no excuses for me not to be on the field. If at all possible, I want to be on that field. I didn't know the WILL at all going into the spring. It was a total change for me. Now I know four positions and that can only help me. Once I get more experience at WILL, I'll have the same comfort level there that I do at MIKE. I want that starting position and I'm trying to earn it. But I've got to improve my knowledge of the position and play with the right technique. I had some errors on film and I've got to work more on my pass-drops, too."

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