Venables looking for a couple of war daddies at DE


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Chris Register, Clelin Ferrell and Richard Yeargin are all in the mix at end
Chris Register, Clelin Ferrell and Richard Yeargin are all in the mix at end

CLEMSON – Brent Venables isn’t fazed by the loss this week of two defensive ends to injury. He just needs a couple of “war daddies” to set the tone.

Clemson’s defense lost projected starter Austin Bryant earlier this week when he suffered a broken bone in his foot. Bryant is expected to miss about a month as he recovers. True freshman Xavier Kelly was involved in a moped accident late Wednesday and received several cuts and abrasions, along with stitches in his toe.

The loss of both players – Bryant is out for Auburn while coaches hope Kelly can return to practice next week – further depletes an already inexperienced end group that has to replace Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd, who combined for 24 ½ sacks and 49 tackles for loss last season.

Venables was asked how many defensive ends he needs to play this season, and he laughed while putting the word “need” in air quotes.

“How many do you need? You need two. We had that last year, and those were two war daddies,” Venables said after Thursday’s stadium scrimmage. “We need three or four and will for sure travel five and maybe a sixth just to be prepared in case of a disaster. Guys have to earn the right to play, and then sometimes they have to play because if a guy gets the wind knocked out of him or a guy gets hurt. Or they've earned the right - I trust them. It's like Tre Lamar because I coach the backers - I trust him. He's a fully engaged guy that makes plays. He's far from perfect. He's got a lot in front of him still, but he's a fighter and just a hardworking and intelligent guy.”

Venables said the group just needs experience.

“It's an eager group. They're athletic,” he said. “They've got good length, good strength. Intelligent guys. Just have to gain experience through playing.”

One option for the immediate future is 300-pound defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who played some end during the scrimmage.

“He was good. He's in the mix, absolutely. We don't have many guys and he's one of our best players,” Venables said. “He played more end, but he played both. I'm glad he had the spring, and we had the foresight to do it. He played it in high school. He's big and long. Don't sleep on that 300-pounder because that guy can move. He leads our defense in fall camp in extra, second-effort plays. He shows up on the screen every single practice of extra effort. He can really move. Got great burst. He's a sub-five flat 40 guy at 300 pounds. He's different and super smart. He's an attack guy. Very, very strong. He's got a mean pass rush out there. We're lucky we've got him.”

Another tackle who recently moved to end – Jabril Robinson – is also in the mix.

“He's been good. He's a tough guy. He's quick. He's super physical,” Venables said. “Got good pass rush. He's strong. He's more of an attack, physical guy. He's been good. Ready to play? Travel? Suit up? I don't know. We'll see. I hope so. He hasn't played bad. We have to get him refined there. He'll be okay. We wouldn't have moved him if we didn't think he could help us, whether that's the fifth guy or whatever. I think he could be in a position to help us at Auburn. That's realistic.”

Sophomore Richard Yeargin, who played 147 snaps last season, said someone will step into the breach.

“Next man up. There is no panic, and there's no worry. We all came here for moments like this,” Yeargin said. “It's always a journey, and we aren't where we want to be yet, but by the first game, we will be there. We lost a dynamic player and leader out on the field, and it sucks to see him that position. All of us in some way, shape or form have to step up and take leadership. You have to have that stay ready, so you don't have to get ready mentality.”

Venables said Kelly was firmly in the mix for playing time at Auburn, but also said he’s hopeful the Kansas native will be back at practice next week.

“We were planning on playing him and having him ready. He may be kind of Clelin (Ferrell) like. We weren't ready to say he's a redshirt guy and we still may not. We'll see,” he said. “I think he may be practicing next week. We have to make a decision two or three weeks into the season to be definitive, but if we know before then, there's no need to drag it on if we definitely know. Some of these decisions will be made on watching today's video. If you get a guy to where he still has a question mark on him, we'll either play him, or he's not quite ready.”


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