Venables ready for first taste of GT option attack


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CLEMSON – Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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understands that one of the reasons he was hired by head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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was for games like the one this Saturday against Georgia Tech and Paul Johnson’s option attack.

He was still getting used to wearing orange when he started making stops on the social circuit, and he admitted late this past summer that almost the first question out of the mouths of many Clemson fans were, “Can you stop the option?”

This week, he gets his chance. Georgia Tech rolls in to Clemson on a two-game losing streak, but the offense is still clicking right along, averaging 329.4 rushing yards per game, good for third in the nation behind Air Force and Army.

Quarterback Tevin Washington, who Dabo Swinney said earlier Tuesday “killed us last year,” has 304 yards and 11 touchdowns, and the touchdown mark leads all FBS quarterbacks. In all, the Jackets have five players that have rushed for 100 yards this season, and Venables said his mistake-prone defense will have to be “precise” in order to stop the Jacket attack.

“They force you to be very precise,” Venables said during his Tuesday session with the media. “They neutralize any kind of athletic ability that you have. It’s all about angles. It’s not as much about power as it is about angles, getting you a little bit too high or a little bit out of your gap. If you don’t have leverage on the football, they’ll take advantage of you. They’re terrific in the play-action game, because of their ability to run the option out of everything, so it leaves a lot of one-on-one opportunities. On the back end, it’s high stress coverage.”

In addition to their vaunted rushing attack, the Jackets are throwing the ball with a little more frequency this season, and are running many plays out of the Pistol formation, which hides the keys from the defense. Washington has completed 40 of 64 passes for 660 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, and the Jackets actually passed on the first play from scrimmage last week against Middle Tennessee St. for an 11-yard gain.

However, Venables said the Jackets are still trying to play keep away.

“The gist of it is this: they’re going to play possession football. If you make mistakes, they’ll capitalize on them, on both sides,” Venables said. “They thrive on and become incredibly difficult to beat if you give them the football and additional possessions. Their whole deal is to possess the football and grind it out, force you to start panicking and do things out of your comfort zone.”

Venables was asked about Georgia Tech’s proficiency at cut blocking, and he said his defense will see a lot of cut blocks in practice this week.

“We’re going to go after it. It’s part of the risk and reward,” Venables said. “You don’t cut, then you’re going to get mowed down on game day, because you’re not ready for it. You cut, that’s a chance you’ve got to take. I think it’s a risk-reward deal that I think our guys need to feel. They need to experience it, so we’ll do it.”

Venables said the Jackets are using multiple formations and motions in an effort to confuse defenders, and said they key to playing with discipline is not eating “the cheese.”

“There are so many different variations and influences that make it very difficult to play with discipline. That’s the test,” Venables said. “Don’t eat the cheese. The cheese is dangerous. It’s a trap.”

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