Venables says open week came at a perfect time

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Clemson’s open date came at a perfect time according to defensive coordinator Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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, and he said Tuesday he hopes the extra practice time allowed the Tiger defense to fix some of the issues that have plagued the unit over the first half of the season.

The Tigers are 70th in the nation in scoring defense, 102nd in the nation in rushing defense, 80th in pass defense 100th in the nation in total defense and Venables said the open date was sorely needed.

“It did come at a good time. Early in the year, you like to have one in the first few weeks to evaluate where you are at,” Venables said Tuesday. “That being said, all things considered now, looking at how this thing sets up, it actually came at a very, very good time. Whether it’s trying to get some guys healed up, trying to evaluate your personnel and the things that you’ve got to work on. You get two weeks to work on all the stuff we need to work on. So, yeah, it came at a good time.”

Venables was asked if he thinks the defense could be better in the second half, and his answer was short and to the point.

“I hope to. That’s what I expect,” he said. “I’d be surprised if we weren’t.”

Venables was asked the reasons for his optimism, and said experience is a huge factor.

“I just think more maturity in the system. Some of the young guys getting more experience,” he said. “The things that we’ve had time to take a deep breath and emphasize when you have a little bit more time. We’ll find out things that they can’t do very well against some things that they can do very well. I said all along that our experienced guys have got to play at a consistent level. The young guys continue to grow within the system. If that takes place here with the last part of the season, I think we’ll see a dramatic improvement.”

Venables said he didn’t expect any personnel changes heading into this week, including moving freshman Travis BlanksTravis Blanks
Fr. Defensive Back
#11 6-1, 190
Tallahassee, FL

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to safety full time, saying that Blanks is too versatile to leave at one spot.

“I wish we didn’t have to float him, but he gives us quality depth at a couple of positions,” he said. “Ideally, your football team is built that way, without having to play guys at multiple positions. In fairness to him, typically, that would happen with an older guy. We feel like he gives us the best option with what he’s doing, both there at safety and our nickel versus the spread.”

Venables was asked about the play of the defensive ends, and he said there are no players that come in at this point and contribute – in other words, what you see is what he has to work with.

“We don’t have a lot of numbers there. It’s not like we’re holding something back, in regards to a young player that just needs to come along,” he said. “We need to play better there. They recognize that. It’s been addressed. I thought Corey CrawfordCorey Crawford
So. Defensive End
#93 6-5, 270
Columbus, GA

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, the last couple of weeks, has done some things, playing with more urgency, just showing up. We need to continue to demand and get more production from those guys. When those guys can do that, help set the edge, it really takes the stress off in a lot of different ways.”

He then broke down what he has seen out of the defensive tackles, especially some of the younger players.

“D.J. [Reader] has played a little bit more. Carlos [Watkins] has made improvement. He’s not quite the same level. That maturation, he’s not that far off, either. So, a lot of it is fundamentals and understanding of everything around him, where things become second nature, where he can really turn it loose and play. D.J. is a little bit more physical ready play. A

“Although Carlos is a big guy, D.J., his physicalness, plus his fundamentals, technique, his ability to move and change direction, because things happen really fast. The closer you get to the line of scrimmage, the less margin for error there is for small, subtle mistakes, whether that’s hand placement, your eyes, your footwork. When you make a mistake close to the line of scrimmage, it can be catastrophic.”

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