Starting Over: Venables says defense is on a "different planet" than a year ago
|Wednesday, March 6, 2019, 7:02 PM- -|
CLEMSON – Brent Venables’ Clemson defense finished last season fifth in total defense and first in scoring defense. Now, it’s all about starting over.
“On a Richter Scale difference? We’re on a different planet from where we were a year ago,” Venables said after Wednesday’s practice. “You have to start over. We say that all the time but you have to literally start all the way over. Just a lot of coaching and teaching and correcting, nurturing and guiding. We’re in a much different place.”
“A lot different. We don’t have as much experience back. We lost the starters like we did last year there’s not much experience,” Venables said. “We lost the two-deep at d-end and with the guys who opted to transfer a year ago with Jabril and Sterling Johnson - those two guys would’ve been on the team last year so you lost a bunch of guys quickly. Then you lost Belk. We lost a bunch of two-deep guys that would’ve been coming back - at least more numbers that would’ve been coming back. Then, of course, you don’t have Nyles (Pinckney) and Jordan (Williams) out there, so there are your four backups that would be there who aren’t. That’s who you peel it all the back to the core. Everybody is gone. They’re all gone except Xavier Thomas.”
For a coach like Venables, the challenge is fun.
“It's always fun. It's football. It's coaching. It's teaching. It's motivating. It's challenging. It's all fun,” he said. “There's a real innocence about all of these guys and where they're at right now. They're hungry and eager to learn and there are a lot of guys hungry for their opportunities whether it's at linebacker - Shaq, Chad, Jamie, Mike Jones - or it's a guy like LeAnthony Williams or Denzel Johnson who's trying to win a job. We're playing him some at corner. K'Von Wallace played a little corner. All of those guys inside. K.J. (Henry) wants a spot. Justin Mascoll wants a spot. Logan Rudolph and Justin Foster and Xavier Thomas don't want to give up a spot. It's a lot of fun to watch those guys compete and battle it out.”
Which players have stepped up as leaders?
“I would say probably Tanner Muse, K’Von Wallace, A.J. Terrell, Shaq Smith, Jamie Skalski, Nolan Turner, and Denzel Johnson,” Venables said. “That group of guys. I was remiss in not naming him as a leader. Logan Rudolph, as well.”
"Joseph Charleston was hurt in practice today. He’s shown some stuff. He’s disruptive. Got some picks. He’s knocked some balls loose. Landen had a pick on Monday and had a really nice play. He’s very smooth at picking stuff up. Ray Thornton is coming off of labrum surgery so he’s not practicing."