Venables looking for "pretty solid" group to flourish


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Venables gets in the ear of Ryan Carter during the spring game
Venables gets in the ear of Ryan Carter during the spring game

CLEMSON – Brent Venables is in many ways anti-Dabo Swinney. He doesn’t like to prop up players in the media, and he isn’t known for giving into hyperbole.

So when he says the Clemson defense has a chance to be “pretty solid” you listen. But even that statement was hedged with a lot of ifs. Welcome to the world of Clemson’s defensive coordinator.

Venables met with the media following the spring game Saturday, and even though his defenders were split into two different squads, the defense harassed opposing quarterbacks for much of the afternoon and made life tough for ball carriers and receivers alike.

Venables didn’t betray much excitement when he was asked if any of the players stood out to him during the spring.

"I don't know. It's been good this spring. Isaiah Simmons, Tanner Muse, those are a couple guys that have come on for us and Nyles Pinckney,” Venables said. “And there's a bunch of them that had good solid springs and some more so than others, but those guys in particular really jumped out and had a good spring.”

Chad Smith, Van Smith and Shaq Smith all had solid spring games, and Venables said he needs to see another “growth spurt” out of those players and others.

“The Smith brothers, there were three of them out there. There were some good hitting and guys got their hands on the ball,” he said. “It was fun to see guys who haven't had an opportunity get out there. We've had a chance to evaluate a lot of guys this spring. And now we are looking for another growth spurt with a lot of them. Physically, mentally, in maturity and in leadership. We are looking for bigger things out of those guys.”

The Tigers return a wealth of talent on the defensive side of the ball, but Venables didn’t take the bait when asked if he thought if this could be his best group.

"I don't really look at it that way. Every year, I don't care if you have experience or not or are a starter or not, I don't ever look at it that way,” Venables said. “I know we've got enough guys to be good and how good we'll be, we'll see. But if we don't have good leadership or guys are going to be selfish, or guys that aren't willing to put in the work or be consistent about going to class and doing all the little things the right way, then we won't be worth a flip. So there's a lot still in front of us before you can make any guesstimations or predictions of that nature. I'm anxious to see. I think it's a good group of guys that like to work and seem to have a pretty good chemistry, and I think we have guys that are capable of being good leaders, so hopefully they'll flourish in the fall."

How good the defense will be will depend on the team’s leaders.

“I think we have a good group of guys. There is a collection of guys that like to compete and like to work and like to grind,” Venables said “They enjoy that whole process. We have a few guys that are like that and now those leaders need to impose their will on others and make them better. That is what the great ones do - they make the others around them better and hold them accountable. Will we do that? I don't know. If we do, we will have a chance to be pretty solid. If we don't, then we can be pretty average pretty quick.”

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