Venables not satisfied despite solid scrimmage


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Venables coaching during an early practice
Venables coaching during an early practice

CLEMSON – Clemson finished eighth nationally in total defense in 2016, tenth in 2015 and first in 2014. Part of the reason is that defensive coordinator Brent Venables is never satisfied.

Not even after a dominant scrimmage during spring practice.

The Tigers scrimmaged Wednesday afternoon in the indoor practice facility, and head coach Dabo Swinney said the defense won the day. Venables was asked if any players stood out during the scrimmage and he said no.

“Nobody stood out. We had a good attitude and good effort,” he said. “The guys weren't already checked out for spring break. You worry about that right before spring break, and our guys had the correct mindset to compete and get better."

He was then asked if he was excited about a solid returning nucleus, and his answer was a typical Venables answer.

“Excited? I don't know. Excited? I like our guys. I like where we are,” Venables said. “The defensive coaching staff has some new guys and some new roles. I like where we are, chemistry-wise, and our understanding of what we have to do to play good defense. I think we know our roster and our players pretty well. We know more about our guys, more so than maybe even a year ago. But, we have a long way to go.

“Every year presents new problems, new issues, and new concerns. Some of it's good, some of it isn't good. Every day is different. We are teaching guys how to practice, compete and stay humble. There are a million different things that you are working on every day, and it's never good enough. Some aspects and schemes are getting better, and some aren't and probably won't be for a while.”

Venables was asked if any of the redshirt freshmen are ready to step into a contributing role, and he shook his head no.

“It's just eight practices. There is still an opportunity to improve and get better,” Venables said. “We may still move some guys, too. It's still early. They have terrific attitudes. I couldn't be more pleased with their attitude and work ethic. They are football players that have a lot of natural, instinctual ability. They are aggressive instead of playing on their heels. They are aggressive kids that like to mix it up and put their face in there. A lot of times that isn't the case. A lot of times that isn't the case initially. There are a lot of intangibles. They have physical traits, are a little more mentally and physically mature than other guys.”

The defense won the scrimmage despite a lack of depth at linebacker.

“I had five guys out. Guys are banged up a little bit. Nothing has changed, except I had different guys running with the ones and the twos,” he said. “That gives me the opportunity to look at more guys. But it's a good group. A lot of chemistry and leadership. They've been helping each other and getting each other better.”

He then reminded everyone that it doesn’t pay to get excited about the defense in the spring – they just have to be ready by the opener.

“There is a lot of time between now and next fall. There has been progress in some areas and in other areas we have a lot of growing up to do,” Venables said. “Some of it is maturity. But the maturation process is exactly that, a process. So we are not ready to line up and play against Kent St. yet, and I am talking about lining up and dominating somebody. But we are getting there. There are some physical tools there and I think the work ethic is there. There is only so much time in a day and only so much work you get done in a day.”

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