Venables says tackling is attitude and toughness

by - Senior Writer -
Brent Venables at a recent Clemson practice.

AUDIO: Brent Venables post-practice audio

CLEMSON – “Tackling is attitude. Tackling is toughness.”

New defensive coordinator Brent Venables was asked about how he plans on making the defense one that tackles better than Clemson’s 2011 version, and toughness and attitude were just part of his response.

Venables met with the media following Clemson’s fourth practice of the spring on Monday, and he listed all of the factors that he sees as part of becoming a team that tackles well.

“Experience helps. Guys being sure of themselves, knowing what to do, trusting the guy next to them,” Venables said. “And muscle memory, trained reaction, just understanding the discipline and overall what it is that we’re doing, who’s where, leveraging the football. There’s a lot to it from a mental standpoint as much as anything. But at the end of the day tackling is attitude.

“Tackling is toughness. And trying to develop that mindset and that toughness through a lot of competition where you’re trying to quantify a winner and a loser, whether it’s the PAW Drill or short-yardage drill or things of that nature. You’re demanding the toughness that it takes and the mindset that it takes to be a good-tackling, tough-minded defense.”

Poor tackling didn’t cost the Tigers in early games as the offense simply out-scored opponents, but the tackling became a more-than-glaring weakness in losses to Georgia Tech, N.C. State, South Carolina and West Virginia.

Part of the blame was placed on the fact that the Tigers don’t complete the tackle during practice, instead going for the safer ‘thud’ version where the defender wraps up the ball carrier. Venables said that he used the ‘thud’ system while at Oklahoma and will use it here while trying to make the system less complex while stressing technique and fundamentals.

“During the season you can’t do it nearly as much. There’s always a delicate balance,” he said. “This is such a high-stress game now more than ever. The offense forces you to defend the field from every inch sideline to sideline, and because of that the margin for error is that much less. So the technique and the fundamentals are more important now more than ever.

“So with all the fast-paced no-huddle, guys are just trying to get lined up and get their feet set before the ball is snapped to have a chance. There’s a lot to that. It’s not whether it was a Clemson thing. It’s really all across the country where people are dealing in those types of situations. So to answer your question, we tried to thud up or tackle as much as we could. You try to simulate as much live situations as you can.”

This spring has seen just four practices, yet Venables says he is beginning to get a sense for what he has inherited.

“They have done a good job. Again, it is still a process,” he said. “I think we have some guys that have some decent athleticism, good strength, the ability to leverage and move their feet. Conceptually, they are showing a knack to have a decent grasp of what we are doing. I feel like these guys have made progress each day.”

The Tigers must replace three starters on the defensive line, a situation that Venables addressed.

“It all starts up front. That is not earth-shattering news,” he said. “They have shown an ability to hold their own and make the improvements we need them to make, so we can get them a bunch of snaps to make up for their lack of experience. “

Venables was asked about his scheme being less complex than his predecessor’s, and he said he wants his players to play fast.

“They are picking things up mentally, fundamentally and physically,” he said. “When a guy is playing fast and with good technique, typically that is a reflection of understanding what his responsibility is, where his eyes need to be and where his hat and hands need to be, those types of things. It has been positive.

“When you learn things the first time, you are not so sure of yourself. They are like anybody else. It is a new process, but I have been pleased with their willingness to work. It is not without error, but guys are competing hard and learning on and off the field.”

He said that as of right now, no one player has a starting job as he rotates players in and out.

“They are just taking turns. We are giving guys an opportunity mentally and physically to think they have a chance to compete,” he said. “We have said all along that we are going to judge them on a body of work. One thing is what you’ve done in the past, but that has zero to do with what you do in future. What matters is what you do now. I want guys to know there is a fighting chance and that there is an evaluation process going on every day.

“It’s a new year and a new opportunity. There are enough quality players coming back that if we do things right, and are willing to put in the work we will have a pretty dang good team next fall. I think there is an excitement from that standpoint as much as anything. They recognize there are things we need to work on, but they are willing to put the effort into it. I think there is certainly more than hope. I am assuming they are starting from ground zero in trying to develop a football sense, that is Football 101.”

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