Venables talks about his "simple" defense and how to defend running quarterbacks

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Brent Venables understands he is under the microscope, and he understands that armchair coaches will examine his every move and all of his schemes as he tries to resurrect a defense that was left battered and bruised physically and shattered mentally on the turf at the end of the Orange Bowl.

Not an easy task to be sure, but Venables says he is up for the challenge, whether that is stopping Georgia Tech’s option attack, the power running game or the spread attack that is so common in college football today.

In fact, he embraces it.

“I like coaching. I like competing,” Venables said after Wednesday’s practice. “I like the challenge of it. It stresses you and it ages you, but that is the fun of it. It wouldn’t be any fun if everybody was easy to stop.”

Venables said that he likes the talent he has on the Clemson defense, and that attitude and fundamentals go a long way towards making a scheme more successful.

“I think we have a foundation we can win with,” he said. “All those schemes aren’t any good unless you have attitude, toughness, intelligence and guys playing with effort and the fundamentals. I am trying to get all of those things to become second nature and develop that type of culture and mindset. That daily and weekly investment that it takes, just to get them invested in the process of how you play well individually and collectively. That is the most important thing to us right now.”

Several of the players have noted that Venables’ scheme is simpler than that of his predecessor, but Venables said he doesn’t understand where that comes from.

“Simple….I don’t know what that means to them,” he said. “I think people – offensively – do everything they can to have the upper hand at the end of the day. Whether it is calling the play from the sideline or changing the play on the sideline. Forcing you to show your hand and having the ability to have great diversity in what they are doing and stay out of negative plays and control the tempo of the game.

“Our players have to continue to develop their football intelligence so they can play the same way the offenses are playing. You can't do just one thing anymore – it doesn’t work that way. The bottom line is you have to play with effort, out on the perimeter and in the interior. And you have to play with discipline. If they think that whole theory is simple, so be it. But that is simpler in theory than it is an actual execution. And to do it on a consistent basis is the key.”

He is also giving the players the defense in smaller doses than would normally be the case.

“Again, I think we have purposely given them just a little bit at a time to see what they can handle and they have handled things pretty well,” he said. “It is just trying to find out what guys can do and putting them in successful positions. And then getting our guys to understand all the little things it takes to play well. That is a process. “

The Tigers have struggled in recent seasons to stop running quarterbacks, and Venables said the hardest player on the field to stop is the dual-threat quarterback.

“Everybody has got good players. I think what’s in vogue is the guy that can move the pocket when everything breaks down or you cover everybody,” he said. “They’ve got the upper hand. They can scramble and be elusive. There is stress everywhere. The guy that can run and throw – really good – is hard to defend. For everybody. You look at Michael Vick in the NFL or you look at Robert Griffin [from Baylor]. Now if they can just throw or just run, they are not as hard to defend. But when they can do both…they are tough.

“It takes a great deal of discipline when you have guys that are multi-talented that way. You do have to change how you defend them to a certain degree. You can't just say, ‘We are who we are and we do what we do.’ There are certain things – whether you change how you rush the quarterback or change maybe what pressures you bring, what coverages you bring or whether you employ the proverbial spy. There are a number of things that, when you get to those games, you kind of see how you have to defend them.”

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