Venables seeks improvement in Clemson defense

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Tuesday that new defensive coordinator Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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wants more out of his defense.

The Tigers have given up a whopping 432 yards on the ground through the season’s first two games – 232 of that to Ball St. last Saturday – and have shown the same propensity for giving up the big play. Venables said during his Tuesday press conference that he can’t blame one player or one part of the defense, especially after watching the tape of the Ball St. game.

“There’s a whole lot more you liked than you didn’t like, but it’s a lack of consistency on what you wanted to accomplish, at the type of level we play,” Venables said. “All starting in the run game. Everyone took their turn, whether it was a linebacker, D-end, or box safety. We’ve just got to work at it and get consistent, getting our guys to play with the discipline it takes, getting our eyes in the right place, playing with technique, and landing in the correct spots.

“A lot of times that’s two, three inches from where they are. It’s coming. A number of times in the game our guys showed that propensity to do what they’re supposed to do. You’ve got to do it every single down, whether you’re a one, two or three – you’ve got to come in and execute. But our guys played with effort and there were a lot of encouraging, positive things.”

Venables did say he was pleased that he was able to see so many players get significant snaps, and he was pleased with the fact that the defense showed they could make plays a majority of the time.

However, he wants consistency.

“We got a bunch of guys on the field and got experience, and showed a bunch of depth in spots,” he said. “Again, in certain situations, our guys played really well. 27 of the 40 rushing attempts went for four yards or less. That shows to me they can do it. But if you do it once you have to be able to do it over and over. They show it’s not a lack of talent. That’s our job, responsibility as coaches to get our guys to a level where they can make plays. It’s such simple concepts, but guys try to do too much, at the end of the day you can’t do that.”

Venables was asked if he was thinking about making any personnel changes, and the answer was a fiery no.

“What do you want us to try different? What are you fishing at? Let me think. Nope,” he said. “There isn’t. We just need to get good at who we are and what we’re doing now. Get our guys comfortable with what we’re doing. We’re too inconsistent as it is. They just need to continue to get experience. It’s a long season, very typical of most teams, especially one where you don’t have a lot of returning experience who hasn’t played much. We’re going to continue trying to sharpen the things we’re doing and get guys to improve where they’re at. “

He did say he was impressed with many of the younger players who are learning on the job.

“There’s a bunch of them who have all shown those signs,” he said. “Josh WatsonJosh Watson
RS So. Defensive Tackle
#91 6-4, 285
Wilmington, DE

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really improved from week one to week two. DeShawn WilliamsDeShawn Williams
So. Defensive Tackle
#99 6-1, 285
Central, SC

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did the same thing. Stephone [Anthony] made another leap of improvement. Travis BlanksTravis Blanks
Fr. Defensive Back
#11 6-1, 190
Tallahassee, FL

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was all over the place. God, that guy’s good. D.J. ReaderD.J. Reader
Fr. Defensive Tackle
#48 6-3, 335
Greensboro, NC

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played 20-plus snaps and really did a nice job. And that’s a hard position to play right away. So his fundamentals and technique aren’t necessarily second nature yet, and when those come along, the more he plays, I think he has the chance to be a strong player for us.”

Venables was asked what makes Blanks so special.

“Just his attitude. He’s not afraid. So many times guys play at a young age and are afraid to make mistakes,” he said. “He’s sure of himself, he’s confident in himself and what we’re asking him to do. He’s always asking the right questions, whether it’s in the meetings, before the game, in practice or in the game itself. He immediately understands when he messes something up. You can coach him hard. He just plays at a very fast level. He’s physical and competitive for a long, quote-unquote, wiry, skinny guy. He is a physical guy, he uses his hands well and has great instincts and a good feel for the game. And he has so much to get better at still. “

Venables was also asked about the continued growth of linebacker Stephone AnthonyStephone Anthony
So. Linebacker
#12 6-3, 235
Polkton, NC

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, and Venables said he had to focus on the negative first.

“I’m a guy who always kind of looks at the negative first. We missed a big tackle – he hit the guy in the backfield, should have been a big tackle for loss,” he said. “Nice fill on his behalf. And the long run was him and another guy out there making a mistake. Other than that, I’ve been really pleased. He’s really maturing. That maturation process is different for everybody, and to me, that light’s gone on for him. He’s more and more comfortable every day with what we’re doing, and he looks like he’s playing with assuredness.

“He made a great play on the interception and was stepping underneath another one on another short throw that got batted down. I expect him to continue making these huge leaps as we continue to play. He’s mature, he’s intelligent. He’s got great desire to be a great player. He doesn’t have an overinflated opinion of his abilities and where he’s at. He’s very easy to coach. He’s his own worst critic, so he has a lot of the intangibles the “it” guy has. He’s got a high level of ability and talent as well. He’s got to continue to play. There are going to be more failures along the way, but he’s the kind of guy who will work and improve from it.”

Venables also said he doesn’t keep track of how many times he calls a blitz – he just wants his team to control the line of scrimmage.

“I don’t know. We did some, I don’t know how many,” he said. “You can tell I really don’t care. It’s hard to pressure with any kind of consistency if you don’t blitz the run game till you stop the run game out of base. That’s how you’ve got to build your defense, at least that’s how we’re going to. We’re not going to feel like we’ve got to run an all-out blitz to stop a zone play. A zone play is not a trick play.

“You can run all kind of blitzes and slants, and I can try to smoke them and there will be lost yardage. But that’s not how you can get better as a football team and build our defense. The best defenses around control the line of scrimmage with four, and you play physical with your front seven. You can play coverage, you can play pressure, and you can have flexibility. So we have to get good with the foundation, with our base, before we do anything from there.”

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