Venables says championship teams are player driven


by - Senior Writer -
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Venables shows the fire he expects out of his players

Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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owns a National Championship ring, and the teams he has been a part of have had reeled off 16 consecutive winning seasons, winning at least 10 games 13 of those seasons, so he knows about winning in college football.

Venables said this past spring that all of the championship teams he has been around had one common denominator, and that it went beyond coaching and the talent on the field – they were player driven.

Venables enters year two hoping to get more consistency out of his defense, a young squad that might see just three seniors (Spencer ShueySpencer Shuey
RS Sr. Linebacker
#33 6-3, 230
Charlotte, NC

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, Darius RobinsonDarius Robinson
Cornerback
#21 5-10, 175
College Park, GA

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

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) break the two-deep at all 11 positions. He is also looking for player-leaders to step up and become an extension of the coaches while they are between the white lines, and told me this week that he thinks this team can take that next step and become a championship caliber football team if there are leaders in every group out on the field.

“There’s got to be a guy in the receiver group. You want your offensive line group to be a bunch of dirt bags, but then have a couple of guys that are doing the right thing at the right time,” Venables said this week. “It’s not just that you have Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
RS Sr. Quarterback
#10 6-1, 225
Hampton, VA

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over here and then you have Travis BlanksTravis Blanks
So. Defensive Back
#11 6-1, 190
Tallahassee, FL

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over here. Who’s your guy up front? You’ve got to have guys that take ownership on the football team that kind of have a coach’s perspective.

“You have to have a high level of maturity, a high level of understanding of what those expectations are and unafraid to call a spade a spade - call guys out when it isn’t right whether it’s intensity in the weight room, whether it’s in the film room, whether it’s guys being late to skills and drills.”

Venables said that player driven teams have more people who are willing to take accountability.

“In the end, when you have that kind of leadership, there’s a higher level of accountability and you get more guys that are willing to work and are more willing to follow the leader, so to speak,” he said. “Everybody can’t lead; it’s just not going to happen. Everybody can follow the leader, but that doesn’t happen all of the time. That’s where when you are player driven; guys give in because they don’t want to be the pink elephant. They buy into what your philosophy is as a head coach and as a program and guys are holding each other to that standard.”

He then said that coaches will always be coaches, but sometimes a coach’s message is lost in the middle of a long season or a long camp, and that is where the players have to take ownership.

“A coach is always going to show up and scream and yell and holler, but that only goes so far,” Venables said. “When your guys are talking about it at the dorm room and when they go out and have dinner on a Saturday night. When that kind of culture is fostering itself in the locker room without the coaches present, you’ve got something pretty special. I feel at this time, compared to last year, that we have a few more guys who are willing to do that. We’ll see though because that’s a process.”

Venables said that players have to learn that if you are going to be a leader, you have to be a leader every day and not just when you feel like it, and also be able to take constructive criticism and coaching in the right way.

“You have to be that guy every day. When you can coach your best players the hardest, you’ve got something pretty good,” he said. “Because all of those young guys see that ‘if you can coach Tajh Boyd like that, then I better follow along.’ Meaning you not only coach them hard, but they respond the right way- good body language, he takes that coaching and he applies it to the field. He doesn’t have an ego, he doesn’t buy into this line of thinking that is outside the football complex and think that he’s already arrived and all he has to do is get to the Georgia game. He has to have a certain level of humility and selfless attitude and that goes forever in developing the kind of people, mindset and culture that you have within the building. We’re not into that whole Johnny Five-Star and he gets treated different and everybody else is held to a different standard. That doesn’t work in any business. Here are the expectations and here are the standards and now it’s everybody’s responsibility to live up to those. Period.”

I asked Venables if the leaders were beginning to separate themselves and if he could say who they were, and he smiled and said we would all know by the end of fall camp.

He also knows that the unquestioned leader of this team is quarterback Tajh Boyd.

“I’ll probably leave out guys, but there’s a big number. I don’t really want to name names right now because I want to see who they are when we get to fall camp and if they’ll be that way a week into the camp or two weeks into camp,” he said. “Then they start separating themselves and you kind of find out who’s who and what’s what. Tajh has more than proven himself and we expect that. When you get good quarterback play and good quarterback leadership, you usually have a good team that follows, everywhere - every level of football. You might have one team that held that in terms in leadership. Normally when you have poor quarterback leadership, the team follows suit. Tajh- I’m on defense, but I lean on him heavily, but he has more than answered the bell on a consistent basis. He’s not into himself. Everybody has an ego to a certain level, but in my experience he’s been a strong figure in our football family.”

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