The Beekeeper: Brent Venables has had success shutting down Tech's option


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Venables' defense has shut Tech down the last two seasons
Venables' defense has shut Tech down the last two seasons

CLEMSON — Just call Brent Venables The Beekeeper.

Clemson’s defensive coordinator is one of the few coaches in the country that has figured out a way to bottle up Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech’s option offense. He keeps the bees in a box if you will.

Venables arrived on campus before the 2012 season, and Clemson didn’t have much luck against Johnson’s option before his arrival. Johnson’s first season in Atlanta was 2008, and the Tigers lost both games against the option attack, losing 39-34 in an ACC Championship Game notable for the fact that neither team punted.

In 2009, the Jackets rang up 301 yards on the ground in a 30-27 win. Clemson broke a four-game losing streak to Tech with a 27-13 win in 2010, but Tevin Washington ran for 176 yards and Tech ran for 383 overall in a 21-17 victory in 2011.

The Yellow Jackets scored 31 points in each of Venables’ first two games in the rivalry – in 2012 and 2013 – but the Tigers have held Tech to just 19.6 points per game since. In fact, Tech rushed for just 95 yards a year ago and 71 yards in 2014, both lows for a Johnson-coached offense.

This season, Tech is ranked second nationally in rushing offense at 372.83 yards per game, and Venables thinks Tech is relying on the run, even more, this season.

"I think they're probably running it a little bit more than they have in the past, and obviously have been a run-heavy team,” Venables said Tuesday. “They are closer to 90-10 than they are to 80-20. I think they would like to be around 80-20. But I think the B-back has been terrific for them all year, excellent player and really kind of makes them go.

“The quarterback (TaQuon Marshall) makes really good decisions, shows good instincts in his decision making and his patience and poise is really outstanding for a young player. The line's more mature, the receivers are more mature and it's been a group that has grown up in the system the last few years."

Venables says Clemson’s success against the Jackets has less to do with his schemes and more to do with the players the Tigers have been able to put on the field.

“You just kind of go from one year to the next and every year's different. Their players are different and our players are different — I think that has a big part of it too,” Venables said. “I think some years we've had the advantage at certain positions from a matchup standpoint and that always makes a big difference too. It's not always your schemes. I think schemes are a starting point, but ultimately players have to go out and execute."

Third down will once again be a key factor. Through the first six games of the season, Georgia Tech ranks fifth nationally in third-down conversions — converting 52 of their 102 attempts for 50.98 percent. The Clemson defense struggled on third down against Syracuse two weeks ago, but rank 21st in the nation in stopping opponents’ third-down conversion attempts, holding opponents only 30.17 percent of the time.

"I think that's real important. I think they're at their best when they get to third-and-1 and we're at our best when it's third-and-20, so it's really important,” Venables said. “Third downs are incredibly important. If they're able to stay on the field and possess the football, it's the same thing, they're going to make you bleed to death. It doesn't allow your offense to get in a rhyme or rhythm as a team. I think getting stops against these guys, possessions are already going to be limited so getting stops against Georgia Tech is to a certain degree like getting a turnover and that's how we look at it.

"Where they do a great job when games are close is wearing people out, late in the third and in the fourth quarters, doing the same things they been doing because players get lazy minded. They physically get lazy and they're not as desperate and fanatical about doing their job."


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