CLEMSON — CLEMSON – Brent Venables is harried, but happy this week. Clemson’s defensive coordinator hopes to build off his unit’s best performance of the season, a 38-17 win over Virginia Tech that saw a season-high four turnovers. He’ll have to do so in a compressed week; the Tigers head to Winston-Salem, N.C., Thursday night for an ESPN-nationally televised meeting with Wake Forest.
Venables discussed the challenges of a short turnaround, improving on last week, freshman Cortez Davis, the Tigers’ pass rush and linebacker situation with reporters Tuesday.
On the short week: “It’s hard. I don’t know why anyone would ever agree to it. It’s hard. It’s my first time as a coach, and just from a time management standpoint, trying to keep your guys healthy and fresh, there’s a different approach. You want to talk about not enough time in the day, this takes it to a different place. But (Wake Forest) has the same issues as well. You’re on a level playing field. It’s exciting, too. It was literally after the game, you felt very excited about getting back to work the next day, the challenge of getting ready in a short turnaround.”
Were players excited as well: “I think it’s having some success. We played certainly better than we had, really, for the year. For an entire game, you could say that was a better game. I think they’re also excited about the challenge of wanting more, knowing there’s so much we can still play at a much higher level. Nobody has to be Superman. The challenge of playing disciplined for four quarters, if we can do that, I would be very satisfied. Yeah, having success, being 6-1, I really don’t know who we play after these guys, I think we play Duke.
“The challenge of going on the road, challenge of playing on national television, the challenge of having a quick turnaround and the challenge to have an opportunity to play again and compete and have a little bit of success gets you excited for that. This is a team (in Wake Forest) that sounds like it’s always played us really well, is incredibly well-coached. They get more out of less. Very similar to Virginia Tech in a lot of ways, how well coached they are, the consistency of those staffs and how they make you work on your side of the ball. Our guys they’ve had a great attitude, really, all year. We’ve got a good group of young men who care, who are heavily invested in this program, who’ve done a great job of leading and continue to invest week in and week out. That part of it for me has been a lot of fun to go to work with every day.”
On freshman CB Cortez Davis: “He’s done well. I’m excited to see him and those other guys get out there and play. They’re obviously recruited here for a reason. I think it’s fun for me to see guys engaged in practice. There’s nothing more disgusting to me than when a guy’s disinterested in a meeting or disinterested in practice. So we’ve got high levels of urgency. It’s Code Red.”
On Davis moving his hips well for a taller cornerback: “Yeah, he’s like Deion Sanders out there (laughs). He does well. I think he’s excited for the opportunity. And I hope it comes for him. He’s ready to perform.”
On preparing for Wake Forest and self-scouting: “It’s a delicate balance. So often it comes back to you. Understanding what you do. There’s concepts, you have to relate them to what you’re seeing. Every week you’re going to see different wrinkles. Wake has a history of doing that. This week will probably be no different. If they understand what we’re doing, I think it helps them. There were some situations last week that our guys applied concepts. There’s no big turnover, the quarterback’s face doesn’t get ripped off so nobody gets all excited. But us as coaches, we do. That shows they’re kind of getting it now. This week’s no different from that standpoint.”
On Spencer Shuey’s first start: “He played well. I was very happy with how he managed things, and his effort, his toughness, made the plays he was supposed to make.”
On the improving pass rush: “We’ve got a long ways to go but there’s definitely improvement. I think guys are playing, getting people in predictable situations, earlier in the game. Not having to wait until third down helps you do that. When you’re playing consistently in some of the run defense and get them in, say, second and long, you’re anticipating a situation, you can play with a little more aggression.”
On the decision to go with Shuey over Stephone Anthony at middle linebacker: “They’ve both played well and both work incredibly hard, they’re both deserving. I think we have a little bit of depth there and tried to change things up. Stephone was incredibly talented young guy, I think he’s got a chance to be a fabulous player, and I’ll be disappointed if he’s not. So you’ll continue to see both of them. It’s good to have depth there.”
How has Anthony responded to the benching: “About like you’d think. He’s responding to what.. he’s played, he’s been a starter for X number of games, and both of them have played in all the game’s this year. Guys that deserve to play, that have shown the capacity to play well, to do the things we want them to do deserve the opportunity to play. I would be disappointed if we had selfish guys on the team, but we don’t. He’s not. He’s very prideful, incredibly coachable, great worker, and I want him to have success. Nothing would make me happier than to see him have the kind of success he deserves.”
On Josh Watson’s “in the grasp” sack: “I was really mad because our guy who was covering back in the flat was staring in the backfield and they threw it to him. I was not happy one bit. In the grasp! I like it!”