Brent Venables' defense is good again, but he's looking for its identity
|Friday, October 2, 2020, 8:01 AM- -|
Brent Venables makes no secret of the fact that he loves the players on his 2020 defense, but with so many new pieces in place and Isaiah Simmons off to the NFL, the Tigers’ defensive coordinator is still looking to find the identity of his group.
The numbers through the first two games are better than good. The Tigers are ranked No. 5 nationally in total defense, No. 6 in rushing defense, No. 17 in pass defense, and No. 4 in scoring defense. In other words, it’s business as usual for a Venables defense.
However, Venables said his young group still has a lot of growth and learning ahead.
"We're not anywhere close to where I believe that we will be by the end of the year," Venables said. "We've got a lot of growth to do, a lot of improvement fundamentally, scheme, still working on our chemistry. That's developed over the season. What our identity is, I don't know what that is yet."
Clemson went with a lot of three-man fronts last season due to a lack of depth up front. That isn’t the case this season as younger players like Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee have drawn national attention.
"We've improved up front," Venables said. “Even though we've lost some guys, have some guys out, I've seen noticeably a number of players that have improved, gotten better from where we were in the spring. It's a long season, you got a lot of challenges ahead, but that's been great.
“I think we've got some young guys that have great futures and some, just in regards to some of the depth, a bunch of babies out there running around, just now for the first time getting their ears wet. There are gonna be good days and bad days but really excited about some of our young players across the board up front and in the back end."
Next up for the Tigers is a talented Virginia team that scored 38 points in the opener against Duke last weekend. The Cavaliers’ Brennan Armstrong passed for 269 yards and two touchdowns, both to true freshman wide receiver Lavel Davis, and rushed for 47 yards a score. Wayne Taulapapa rushed for a career-high 95 yards and two scores in the victory.
"We're fixing to get really challenged here moving forward in the meat of our schedule," Venables said. "So we're going to find out a lot about our team over the next month or so, but a lot to look forward to, though, for sure."
Kansas State – where Venables played linebacker from 1991-92 – pulled off one of best upsets of the young season last Saturday in knocking off No. 3 Oklahoma. The upset is a reminder that no team can be taken lightly.
"Great lesson to learn to keep fighting, keep throwing haymakers. Kansas State has an us-against-the-world mentality. Something neat to appreciate and watch the guts they had,” Venables said. “Doesn't surprise me just in regards to who K-State is. Kids are tough as heck and they've got some really good coaches."