Venables see Blanks in same role as OU's Tony Jefferson


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CLEMSON – Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has been wary of comparing any of his current defensive players to the players he had while he was the coordinator at Oklahoma, but following Saturday’s Orange and White game in Death Valley he gave what could be a glimpse into Travis BlanksTravis Blanks
Fr. Defensive Back
# 6-1, 180
Tallahassee, FL

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’ future.

Blanks is the highly-touted defensive back out of Tallahassee, Fla., that enrolled in Clemson in January in order to get an early jump on the competition in Clemson’s secondary. He drew rave reviews for his physical style of play during Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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’s camp last summer, and both Venables and Swinney have been complimentary of the 6-1, 200-pounder’s play during spring camp as he has learned both safety and nickel.

Venables said Saturday that people shouldn’t let Blanks’ wiry frame fool them, and that he sees a little bit of former player Tony Jefferson in Blanks.

“He is already 200 pounds,” Venables said. “He has gained weight since he has been here and he will make another huge jump this summer. We had a guy at Oklahoma [Jefferson] that played that position [nickel] at 200 or 205 pounds. You want him to be as fast and as big, strong, fast and instinctive as possible. He will gain weight through maturity and his first full summer of conditioning and eating right. But Tony Jefferson was that safety-nickel type of guy, and Roy Williams when we had him.”

Roy Williams’ career speaks for itself, but Jefferson was the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2010 and a first team Freshman All-American by The Sporting News and CollegeFootballNews.com. He started nine of 14 games as a fifth defensive back, a role that Blanks could very well handle for the Tigers this season.

In 2011, Jefferson was an Honorable mention All-Big 12 by AP and coaches, and his three tackles for loss at FSU were a big part of the Sooners’ early-season win.

Venables said that Blanks has all of the tools – it’s now a matter of getting good at one position.


“We don’t have great depth in the secondary, so there are some young guys that have a chance,” he said. “He is going to learn one position to start things out. He has high football intelligence, and he can do a number of things out on the field. He can play nickel, safety or corner.”

Swinney said that Blanks has opened a lot of eyes.

"He's been as consistent as anyone we've got in the secondary right now, as a true freshman,” Swinney said. “And he's getting better and better every day."

Venables was asked what Blanks has shown to open those eyes, and he said it encompasses his work both on and off the field.

“What has he done? He's worked hard. He's picked up things fairly well,” Venables said. “He's really hard on himself, very prideful. He's got high football intelligence; he’s got good instincts, plays well with his eyes. He's always ready to go every day in the meetings and on the field. You've seen him put one foot in front of the other and make improvement since he's been on campus. I've been very pleased with his progress. He gives us another athlete in space and the ability to match-up with people.”

Blanks is seeing most of his time at nickel, according to Venables.

“We're trying to get him really good at the nickel position,” he said. “Instead of bringing him in and letting him be average at a lot of things, we're trying to get him really good at one thing and go from there. He has enough flexibility to where he can do a number of different things, whether it’s corner, safety or nickel.”

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