Venables sees scrimmage struggles as exception for defense in camp


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Tre Lamar has been one of the standout performers in camp so far.
Tre Lamar has been one of the standout performers in camp so far.

CLEMSON - The mistakes of a tough first August scrimmage were burned into Brent Venables' memory as he analyzed the day.

But the offensive success didn’t wash away what the veteran defensive coordinator has watched over a week-plus of camp. In fact, Venables added that his guys have had the upper-hand up to Saturday.

“For the first eight days until today, I thought we've performed very well in all good-on-good situations,” Venables said. “Very, very good. Just disappointing we didn't have the intensity or passion. Just the focus on the details. First down and second down and you get to third down and you need to defend it well and somebody's offsides. You can't do those little things. Those are some things that we've done in practice.

“That's got to be a decision. Guys gotta decide if they're going to be disciplined or not.”

Not used as an excuse by Venables Saturday, the Clemson defense wasn’t exactly at full strength with cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen (absent due to funeral) and Mario Goodrich (groin injury) out, as well as James Skalski (foot injury) and defensive end Richard Yeargin (“banged up” according to Venables).

Standouts from the scrimmage came mostly from Venables’ position group.

Judah Davis, he was physical and flying all over and making good plays,” Venables said. “Tre Lamar, Kendall (Joseph), J.D. (Davis) were really good today. It's hard to tell with those guys upfront. But not nearly good enough.”

The Tigers D-coordinator provided his linebacker depth chart currently, with few surprises on the early two-deep.

Going into fall camp, a preseason depth chart listed Lamar as a backup to Joseph at middle linebacker, but Venables had already hinted in July that Lamar was a starter as much as anybody in the group. Saturday, he named converted safety Isaiah Simmons, Kendall Joseph and Lamar as starters and J.D. Davis also a co-starter with that group along with Chad Smith. James Skalski is another in the linebacker corps Venables is high on, who has missed full-action camp so far with a foot injury.

Venables added that senior SLB Jalen Williams has been having a good camp but struggled in Saturday’s scrimmage - and former 5-star prospect Shaq Smith is making a move.

“Shaq Smith is on the come-up,” Venables said. “He's had a really good camp so far. Just (showing) confidence, assuredness, body position, physicality, playing fast, play diagnosis. Yeah (he can make an impact this season)."

More notes from Venables:

On defensive end depth

Venables: (It's) good...KJ (Henry) and Xavier (Thomas) came back and they were noticeably better than what they were in the spring. (Logan Rudolph) took a swipe at somebody today but he's been really playing well. Kicked him out today but he's has a really good camp. Justin Foster has had a very good camp. Richard Yeargin has been banged up so he was out today. Xavier (Kelly) has had a really good camp - we've been working him all over. He's done well.

On freshman cornerback Kyler McMichael’s look as summer enrollee

Venables: He's in great shape. He's been a workout warrior for a long time. He's not frail. He's not timid. He comes from a very good program. He's a tough kid. He's very competitive. He never left the field in high school. I bet you he could break into that two-deep at tailback. He'd be a two-deep guy. He can run.

More specifics on what went wrong in Saturday’s scrimmage

Venables: We came out and the first two plays we played good and the third play we played good - except we lined up offsides and just kinda played a little inconsistent from there. The second group came out and went three-and-out and so they came back and played well. And we come back and the same thing (happens), we get to third down and had a (pass interference call). Lined(-up) offsides another time. Had a facemask. Three-deep coverage and let someone run by us the next couple drives. Just very inconsistent.

And then came back and played a lot better in the back half in short yardage and goalline. From what I saw our first eight days, it hasn't been back and forth. Our guys have really played well in the first eight days. Today (Saturday) - just inconsistent. Just discipline (issues). Got a lot of work to do.


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