CLEMSON — Following No.15 Clemson’s 47-31 win over Georgia Tech Saturday, Brent Venables was asked if tackling was the Tigers’ biggest issue entering their only open week of the season.
“I don’t know,” Venables said with a wry smile. “How much time have you got?”
The Tigers’ first-year defensive coordinator was in a much better mood this week despite giving up the exact same amount of points that he did last week at Boston College, as well as 483 yards.
For the horrible tackling plagued Clemson against the Yellow Jackets’ flexbone option, Venables saw positives in a fourth quarter that featured a key safety from Spencer Shuey (the Tigers’ first since 2008), a blocked field goal by Josh Watson (the Tigers’ first since 2010) and generally improved play when he needed it most.
Clemson has plenty to work on this week, but it’s always easier to do so coming off a win. Venables discussed Saturday’s effort, bye week work, tackling in practice and more with reporters.
Overall impressions: “I’m proud of the way they responded in the second half. We lost some leverage and had a couple of poor tackles. We didn’t change a whole lot. I thought our plan was good. You’ve got to trust the guys around you and know what everyone’s responsibility is, but I thought we really responded big-time. We had some huge plays in that second half. I think those were steps of growth and confidence. What a great play, the blocked field goal, the safety, the fourth-down stop. Just defending a little more sound. Tackling in great positions. Big plays sting but we’re so glad this day is done. It’s a tough offense to defend and creates a lot of stress. They do a great job of in-game adjustments. I’m proud of our guys. They didn’t freak out, stayed calm. We made some minor adjustments and they handled those really well. Really great team effort.”
Building on this through the bye week: “I think so. Last week I didn’t feel great about that one but this week I do, just for a lot of reasons. A couple missed tackles in the second half but I thought our guys played in a much more sure, confident way. They made some huge plays. We complemented each other as a team and I think our guys have a right to have some confidence. I liked the way our guys practiced last week and hopefully you demand it and demand it, sometimes guys don’t buy into it. The scout team… the injury report was almost two pages in the course of the week. If we’re any good on defense, it ought to be a bunch of scout team guys on that list. We were pretty proud of that. We’ve grown in some small things.”
On the safety: “Structurally they were running the same option, trying to get outside. The Mike ‘backer Spencer Shuey makes a great play, he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be, trusting everyone inside of him. He has a great read and great positioning. Makes a great play. He gets the guy down. We’d love for that hat to be across the ball but he arm-wrestled him down. What a big play. Huge play. Happy for all those guys, those twos, those threes that stay ready for that moment, that window of opportunity and sometimes it takes a long time to come. Sometimes it doesn’t come real often. You’ve got to be ready to seize the moment and what a great learning moment that’ll be for everybody.”
Is tackling the biggest issue going into the bye week: “I don’t know. How much time have you got? There were times out there that we weren’t very good and some of it was them cracking us good, and a lot of it I believe is us. A lot of times, tackling is attitude but it’s also your assuredness and where I’m supposed to be and where everyone else is, too. There were a couple plays that were kind of disgusting, some missed tackles, but I thought our guys really battled.”
Tackling was a point of emphasis this week, correct: “Believe it or not. I know sometimes it didn’t show. It has been a point of emphasis. We went full-speed (in practice). There’s some risk involved going full-speed, live on Tuesday and Wednesday. Believe it or not I do believe it helped us. We do still have work to do that way, but we’ll go right back to work at it again.”