Brent Venables expects a battle of wills against the Alabama offense


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Venables says Alabama has great players all over the field
Venables says Alabama has great players all over the field

NEW ORLEANS, LA – When it comes to Clemson and Alabama, there are enough storylines and keys to the game to last a lifetime. One battle to watch, however, will be the Alabama offense against the Clemson defense.

It’s a battle of wills, according to defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who is familiar with the Crimson Tide offense, one that has an identity that doesn’t change much.

“Oh, sure. Obviously, I think some things are going to be this is what we do and, at the other end, you're required to do it,” Venables said. “And I think each one probably brings a little bit something different to the table. But, I mean, they can stay fresh. As much as anything, it's their ability to physically impose their will on people. And they've got terrific players, very highly recruited players in every single position in that huddle. So, even when everything is right, the margin for error is very little.”

Venables calls the matchup a challenge.

“Fundamentally, athletically, physically. And when they're able to keep guys fresh at the skill position when they're featuring the running backs, it can be -- it's a great, great challenge, as we know,” he said. “I think they established a running game early last year. We got settled down and got a little bit better. Losing Henry was a big deal for them. But, as we thought a year ago, 34 is a great player as well. And I think this year has proven that. So they've got home-run hitters, man, outside and in that backfield and then the quarterback.

“The first few plays of the game against one of their early opponents -- I mean, second play of the game, he's flipping the field and 60 yards later, it's a touchdown. And that's what they do, some option principles in some ways. They do a great job of getting their best players in football on the perimeter, in his face, against maybe smaller cover-type guys as well. They force everybody to get involved. You're not going to hide against these boys. They're not, ‘Well, I'm going to cover my guy over here.’ They're smarter than that. And so, if you have some deficiencies, they'll expose you in a minute.”

Alabama was just 2-for-15 on third down against the Tigers in last January’s title game, but Venables says there were plays there for the making.

“Well, they missed some plays, too. I'm not sitting here and beating our chest,” Venables said. “The end result was excellent. But there's some opportunities there as well. But our guys played well there, too. I'm not going to take anything away from them. We did play well there. And we mix it up. We don't just play, ‘Ah, we're just going to play quarter, quarter, half.’ Our guys played well, particularly in those situations, the critical situations. But anybody, it's hard, if you get them behind the chains and it's third and long or extra long and they're at their best, it's going to get you staying on schedule on early downs. And that will be their goal again.”

He was asked about last year’s game – and the great gameplan he devised – and he shook his head in disbelief.

“What did they have? 31 points? Scored 31? It doesn't sound like it was a great plan to me,” he said. “But I thought the Alabama offense played really well. We were fortunate to play well in critical situations and were able to get off the field and not let them have long extended drives. But they had us on their heels. And it was 14-0, as I recall. So expect another same type of game.

“You always want to make some things simple, you know, get your guys to be able to play hard and fast. But we played more than that, trust me. And between our zone pressure and -- we played a lot more than that but glad that Ben [Boulware] broke it down for everybody in such a simple form. But that was -- I mean, they had their chance. We lost the lead. So whatever they did, they adjusted very well.”

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