Clemson ready for Ball State's fast-paced system

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables talks to linebacker Quandon Christian during the second quarter at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables talks to linebacker Quandon Christian during the second quarter at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta.

Venables talks defensive ends and line

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— For two years now, Clemson has faced off with Chad Morris’ hurry-up, no-huddle offense in practice.

The tempo is fast. The mindset: go, go, go.

So it comes as no surprise that the Tigers feel they’re ready for what they’ll face off with Saturday afternoon.

Ball State runs a fast-paced spread offense which can test opponents both on the ground and vertically: the Cardinals snapped the ball 96 times in last week’s season-opening 37-26 win over Eastern Michigan.

Senior “Will” linebacker Tig Willard knows his unit has the right mindset for a quicker-than-usual day.

“From us playing with our offense from spring ball to summer camp to now that’s going to be a great help,” Willard said. “I know our guys are in shape and are going to be able to get calls and think really fast and be able to get lined up, too.”

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has plenty of respect for Ball State. He faced the Cardinals last season while at Oklahoma, and was impressed by their go-for-broke attitude: although Oklahoma took a 62-6 win, BSU recovered an onside kick on the game’s opening kickoff.

Junior quarterback Keith Wenning will be starting his 24th consecutive game, and sophomore tailback Jahwan Edwards is a major ground threat; he mashed Eastern Michigan for 200 yards last week.

“Ball State’s really good on offense. They’re very good. They’re very precise,” Venables said. “They’re incredibly well-coached. In having the experience of playing them a year ago and getting ready and watching all the Elon tape – last year was their first year at Ball State and that’s where their staff came from – we played them week four or five, and to see the change in the Ball State team those first four, five games, you can tell when a team is really well coached. This will be their Super Bowl.”

He was impressed by the overall precision of the spread offense, as well.

“They’re not just running plays and hoping they work,” he said. “(Washington State coach and spread guru) Mike Leach will run his seven routes, and that’s it. He’s going to run them over and over and make you be very precise in defending them. He doesn’t really care what you’re in and watches zero tape.

“(Ball State) cares what you’re in. This is a quarter-beater, this is a two-beater, this is a man-beater, and when you show pressure, we’re going to do this. You show two, we’re going to do that. And then they do it with high tempo. So it really forces you to be even more precise, and it forces them to have to execute, too.”

Just as the Tigers have for the past two years against Morris’ system.

“I challenged our scout team to be rapid-fire and stress guys,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “We’ve spent a whole month practicing against our offense, we know how we play, how we practice. It shouldn’t be a shocker to them.”

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