Venables on Lamar Jackson: Only so much you can do

by - Senior Writer -
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables is once again playing the role of quarterback.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables is once again playing the role of quarterback.

CLEMSON – Brent Venables isn’t ready to quit his job as scout team quarterback. Not yet. Not with Louisville coming to town.

Clemson’s defensive coordinator knows his defense will be in for a stiff test with Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and the nation’s number one offense coming to town, so he isn’t letting redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper take the majority of the snaps in practice.

Linebacker Kendall Joseph told the media that Venables has a “limited” skill set when it comes to playing quarterback, but Venables laughed and said it’s about more than skill when preparing for what Louisville – and Jackson – will bring to the table.

“That's probably accurate. But it's been effective getting our guys ready,” Venables said Tuesday. “We've gotten the results we wanted. But he's lying a little bit. When I've done it, it isn't as much the skill set as it as tempo, looks, the stresses, controlling when we snap it and all of the nuances. We have used Zerrick so far this week, too. It's important they see that size, speed and arm that they will see later this week.”

Jackson has been the talk of college football during the season’s first four weeks, and with good reason. The sophomore signal-caller accounted for seven touchdowns in leading the Cardinals to a 59-28 win over Marshall to improve to 4-0. He passed for 417 yards (with five touchdowns) and another 62 yards on the ground (with two more touchdowns).

Jackson has 1,301 passing yards (13 touchdown passes) and 510 rushing yards (12 touchdowns) this season, and he's played in only 11 quarters. His 25 touchdowns are more than any FBS player has had through four games since at least 2000, per ESPN, and he's on pace to score 75 touchdowns in the regular season.

Venables was late to this Tuesday press conference and spent about half of his usual time speaking with the media, and he admitted it’s been a long week.

“There’s only so much you can do. They present a lot of challenges,” he said. “They have dynamic players and a really good system. They are much further ahead than they were just two years ago with their scheme and personnel, and then one of the most dynamic players in college football. It’s a big game, but last week was, and two weeks ago was. You just have to put together a good plan and guys have to go out there and execute.”

Venables and Cooper together don’t present the same kind of challenge as Lamar.

“He’s got a special skill set, both his running and throwing ability, his ability to improvise and extend plays,” Venables said. “That can create a lot of problems. You can do everything right and still be wrong. You can live with that if that happens. You can’t stress about those things. You just have to give your guys the best possible plan to execute and win.”

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said that Jackson reminds him of a right-handed Michael Vick, but Venables compares him to a player he saw up close and personal – Robert Griffin, III.

“He is very similar. He is probably a little bit more explosive and in a different system in how they are using him,” Venables said. “He is similar in a lot of ways, too. They create a lot of space and have good skill players around him. He is just a great player. He is very tough to defend. They have an excellent group of players around him. They are very smart and manipulative on how they are using him and putting him in very successful situations. I think they are utilizing his skill set the right way. He is just a tough guy to defend.”

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