Venables on his defense: If we don't work hard, we're going to get humbled

by - Senior Writer -
Venables at Swinney's golf outing Tuesday
Venables at Swinney's golf outing Tuesday

SUNSET – Alabama head coach Nick Saban doesn’t mind using the media to send a message to his players, and Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables took a page out of Saban’s book Tuesday when he spent almost an hour sending a very direct message to his defense.

You better come in ready to play.

By the times Venables’ portion of the interview was over, he was bathed in sweat. Part of that was from battling a swarm of wasps that kept interrupting the interview, but part of it was Venables’ own intensity, and he was direct and to the point about players who might think they are already a first round draft choice or can skate by on last year’s success.

That isn’t happening. Not while he is the defensive coordinator.

Several Clemson players are on preseason award watch lists. Clemson wide receiver Deon Cain was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list Tuesday. Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins is on the Hornung, Ronnie Lott and Maxwell lists. He and fellow defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence are candidates for the Bednarik. Wilkins, Lawrence and offensive linemen Mitch Hyatt and Tyrone Crowder are listed for the Outland. Linebacker Kendall Joseph is on the Butkus list.

To Venables, none of that matters, especially the early talk of where certain players might fall in next spring’s NFL Draft.

“I've coached the guy everybody talked about and then had a horrible last year and barely got into the front door (of the NFL) or had to go in the back door," Venables said Tuesday at head coach Dabo Swinney’s media golf outing. “That's what they're going to ultimately be judged on."

Venables is already looking ahead to the season, and he says if players read their press clippings they will be humbled sooner rather than later.

“If we're not watching as much tape and we're not allowing coaches to coach us hard and we're rolling our eyes and giving it a ‘Whatever.’ If we're just jogging because ‘it's just practice.’ If we're getting whipped in the PAW Drill and we don't really care, we're going to get humbled,” Venables said. “'Well, they said I was a first-rounder. I was an All-American last year. I was a Nagurski finalist. Yeah, you whooped me but I got that trophy last year.'”

He admitted that predicting which players will get to go high in the draft or projecting the country’s best players is fun for the fans, but as the defensive coordinator of the defending national champs he can’t afford to think that way.

“It's a fun thing to do. I get it, but I don't live in that world,” Venables said. "Both the mature and the immature players, we’re in charge of keeping their minds on the right things."

Swinney agreed with his defensive coordindator.

"All this preseason stuff, I know it's necessary, and it's awesome to be able to have a job where people are really interested in it and people want to talk about it," Swinney said. "Everybody's excited about the season to come.That's the cool part. But for me, when this is what you do, and you're dealing with a bunch of young people, it's just such a waste of time for our players to worry about any of that stuff because it just doesn't matter."

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