Venables says kickoff coverage teams were embarrassing in 2015
|Thursday, August 4, 2016, 10:09 PM- -|
CLEMSON – Many Clemson fans thought that Clemson’s kickoff coverage teams were disgusting and terrible in 2015, and defensive coordinator Brent Venables agrees with those sentiments.
Venables, who helps coach the kickoff coverage teams, spoke with the media following Thursday’s practice and said that that portion of special teams has to get better.
During the 2015 season, only nine teams (out of 127) allowed more than one touchdown and Clemson was one of those teams. Only two of those teams allowed three touchdowns, and Clemson was one of those two (along with Louisiana Tech). The Tigers were 125th nationally in allowing 117.6 return yards per game.
It’s interesting to note that before the three allowed this season (against Louisville, NC State, and Bama), the last kickoff return for a touchdown was Todd Gurley’s 100-yard ramble in the 2014 season opener in Athens. Before that? TJ. Thorpe had a 100-yarder for North Carolina in 2011. Before that was another 100-yarder, for Victor Harris of Virginia Tech in 2007. That’s right – the Tigers allowed three kickoff returns for touchdowns in an eight-year span from 2007-14 and allowed three in 15 games last season.
“We had roughly 30-something more kickoffs than we did the year before. That's a lot of kicks,” Venables said. “And when you're not playing a bunch of guys, you can give up some serious field position on punts or kickoffs in the fourth quarter in critical games. In a lot of those we had two or three-score leads and we go down there, and we aren't covering like our hair is on fire. So between guys being fatigued and a lack of maturity and the ball not getting put in the end zone that is a big difference.”
What can be done to fix the issues that plague the Tigers last season?
“We have to coach them better. There are some things we can help them with structurally, and then I think we have some guys who are ready to play,” Venables said. “Guys who are ready to play quality plays and not just run down the field. We will see, though. It's easy to talk about it, but we will put the time in and hopefully we will be better. We need to be better.”
Venables then gave his true thoughts on how the coverage teams played and said that his players have to learn to suffocate opponents.
“It's embarrassing. We all have ownership in it and that's the first thing we talked about when we got together,” he said. “It's tough to play defense when you are pinned down all the time. In the Louisville game and then the Alabama game we had kickoff returns for touchdowns. We are challenging guys - not that we didn't a year ago - but we have to do a better job. It's disgusting. It's terrible. When we've been as good as we've been on offense and defense - the best duo in college football - and then we are dead last in special teams? That's not right and something's amiss and we have to do a better job of coaching it and guys have to be more frantic and desperate.
“(Players have to be) practicing, studying tape like they would a third-down cutup. And then not be nonchalant in the fourth quarter. Put the hammer down. Taste blood. Suffocate the opponent. It was pretty obvious we didn't do a good job of finishing people off.”