Venables breaks down his defense after first two practices

by - Senior Writer -
Veanbles said the players understand that last year's defense was sub-par. (TigerNet Staff)

CLEMSON – Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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thinks he can build a Top 10 or Top 15 defense at Clemson, and the building blocks are in place for that to happen.

The defense played better at the end of last season, and gained momentum in the Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU. That momentum carried over into the spring and into summer workouts, and now he wants them to continue that into fall practice.

Venables said he has seen just that in the first two practices.

"Our guys are anxious to play well. They recognize where our inconsistencies have been,” Venables said Saturday evening. “They've worked incredibly hard. It's a good group of guys. They have an understanding of where they're at and what it takes. It's just being a Top 10, Top 15 type of defense. We can go in each and every week and have an opportunity to win the game on our side of the ball. When we have to get a stop, we need to count on them getting it done, guys that can trust guys next to them.

“That's a process that just doesn't happen overnight. I really believe through our winter conditioning, our spring football guys showed up with good knowledge and seem to be in good shape now. They're very anxious. They've competed hard the first couple of days. I want to see how hard they compete 10 or 12 days from now. What I enjoy is that they don't mind hard work. They're easy to coach. They're a bunch of hungry guys who feel like they have a lot to prove."

He said the players understand that last year was sub-par.

"Yeah, they live in reality, in the here and now,” Venables said. “We haven't done it anywhere close to where we need to. We played well in the last game but that doesn't do anything for us now. Our number one job is to stop people and keep them out of the end zone. That's our first and foremost goal. We have to cause turnovers, play well in the red zone and keep them out of the end zone."

Getting rid of the big plays would be a good start.

"I don't want to give up big plays. I'm tired of seeing big plays,” he said. “You can't play good defense giving up big plays. We were the model of inconsistency. That total yardage - we're going to play more snaps. We just are, so I'm looking at points per game. We need to improve on that. If we improve four or five points from a year ago, that's a very good improvement. Now, you can't improve and give up a bunch of big plays, but playing great on third down, creating pressure, creating negative plays, playing great in the red zone and keeping people out of the end zone, improving scoring defense . That's it. Total yardage doesn't always tell the story."

He did caution that it is easy to be motivated in the early days of camp, and wants to see his group respond once the pads are put on in the middle of next week.

"We'll see how we look when we put pads on. I think our guys have really good carryover,” he said. “We've got a bunch of young faces, but also a wealth of experience in that front seven. It has shown as far as the tempo that we practice with, pad level, understanding, you know."

Venables was asked if any of the freshmen had caught his eye, and he said no.

"Not really. Not really. Nobody has been great,” he said. “And nobody has been awfully bad. Just a bunch of guys trying to figure their way through things right now. Some good. Some not so good."

However, he is starting to see competition in the secondary.

"A lot of competition there. A lot. You have a bunch of good, young athletic bodies, guys with good ball skills, guys that can run, guys with good size,” he said.

MacKensie AlexanderMacKensie Alexander
Fr. Defensive Back
#2 5-11, 185
Immokalee, FL

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is the headliner of the young group of defensive backs, and Venables said he wants to see what the Florida native can do when the pads go on next week.

"Just a guy with a good football IQ, intelligence, good instincts and good ball skills,” he said. “We'll see if he'll tackle (when he puts pads on) and do all those other things, be physical. I think that'll be a big thing for young DBs when they go against the likes of Sammy WatkinsSammy Watkins
Jr. Wide Receiver
#2 6-1, 205
Fort Myers, FL

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, Charone PeakeCharone Peake
Jr. Wide Receiver
#19 6-3, 200
Moore, SC

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and Martavis BryantMartavis Bryant
Jr. Wide Receiver
#1 6-5, 200
Calhoun Falls, SC

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. A lot of young players are in good position but they don't possess that strength yet. A good receiver can create space. We'll see. I don't know yet."

Other notes

On the defensive front helping the secondary

"You would hope. We expect that. I believe they will. I'd be disappointed if they don't. That group of players understands and recognizes the value of what pressure can do to the flow of an offense."

On Quandon ChristianQuandon Christian
RS Sr. Linebacker
#34 6-2, 225
Lake View, SC

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"Pretty consistent. He's done well. He's an older guy; he understands what we're doing. We don't have to motivate him to come to practice. I (sense more of a sense of urgency) and he's shown good leadership."

On Tony StewardTony Steward
Jr. Linebacker
#7 6-0, 235
Hastings, FL

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“He looks good. He's had a good couple of days. He's running around really good. No limitations. He feels confident. He looks that way. He's not timid and all that he's gone through in the last few years is behind him now.”

Where is Dorian O'DanielDorian O'Daniel
Fr. Linebacker
#6 6-1, 205
Olney, MD

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"He's playing SAM and WILL."

Jayron KearseJayron Kearse
Fr. Safety
#20 6-4, 205
Fort Myers, FL

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at safety or SAM?

"Yes, he's playing both. He's got length and athletic ability. He's got a pretty good football IQ, good instincts and good ball skills. Very long. He's over 200 pounds now. Travis played there some last year at 190. Jayron is 6-4 and runs a 4.5, so with that length, it's like running a 4.4."

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