Brent Venables says time remains for Clemson defense to improve

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.

Brent Venables isn’t losing his patience. Despite a defense which was torched by Florida State for 667 yards of total offense Saturday night and statistics that rank firmly in the bottom half of the ACC and among the nation’s worst, the Tigers’ first-year defensive coordinator projected an optimistic front Tuesday.

He discussed what Clemson must do to improve, where the Tigers are falling short, the lack of pass rush and run defense, personnel changes and leadership, among other things, during his weekly chat with reporters. An edited version of it follows below.

On improvement: “We’ve got some talent there, they have great wiliness to learn, get better, recognize what shortcomings are. All of us have shown that responsibility. We recognize we do have a great football team. If we can work on the things we can control, the times we’ve shown we can control them we’re going to have a terrific season.

Venables: Great defenses are disruptive upfront


“On the flip side, if we don’t improve, things can make a drastic change. We have a sense of renewal. Good or bad, week to week, you’ve got to be able to shelve it, learn it and go from there. Each week is its own entity and you’ve got to play well, process in how you play well. If you deviate from that process, you’re not going to play well. At least you won’t have a chance to play well. We’ve got to give ourselves that chance and go full speed ahead. There’s a strong mental approach you have to take. You have to again, as players and coaches, you can’t be fragile in how you think. You have to be confident in the situation and understand of what it takes to play well. You can’t deviate from that, because they’re looking for that. Are you going to change full course, change your message, or are you that model of consistency in your approach and what you demand, and you’ve got to continue to demand those things.”

On improving the run game and disappointment in it: “Absolutely, no doubt about it. Without question. It needs to happen. I’m frustrated and disappointed. I’d like to think so, moreso than anybody. But there’s no question that we can. I expect that we will.

“(The mistakes) are correctable. The foundation, the fundamentals of playing the game and really it’s any game. When you (have) shortcomings there, one guy isn’t doing it, you step the wrong way or get your head out of your gap, have bad eyes, you thought something happened that didn’t happen. So many different changing parts, whether there’s discipline or something where you just get beat, too. I’m not one to act like that everything that happened negative for Clemson was just us and not FSU. That’s completely disrespectful to FSU and the kind of team they have. That’s the margin for error when you play good people isn’t much.

“And I thought that a number of things we did through three quarters, two and a half quarters, to give us a chance to win. Five of their last six possessions were three-and-outs on short fields or interceptions. We handled zero adversity well. We never answered the bell on defense, not one time. We couldn’t stop them, had no answers, they had all the momentum. We couldn’t get it back. So there’s a mental approach there, the toughness it takes in that situation. We’ve displayed it, displayed it in our opener against Auburn and we didn’t have it. We didn’t coach it, didn’t display it, and couldn’t come up with a stop to give us a chance.”

On the issues that have cropped up this season: “There’s fundamental issues, there’s discipline issues and they blocked us. They put a hat on a hat and they blocked us. We’ve go to get off blocks too. Goes back to fundamentals. They’re supposed to block you. There’s a guy to block everybody. Across the board, whether it’s a receiver crack blocking a safety or if it’s a linebacker with a fullback, you’ve got to play the blocks better, stay on feet, disengage, be violent on an escape when a guy’s in your hole and you’ve got a guy hanging on you, you’ve got to have violence when you escape so a guy can make a play. It isn’t OK to stay outside and I have leverage on the ball, crossface and go make a play. Sometimes you over-coach them: ‘What arm are you supposed to have free?’ ‘Well they ran the ball inside, why’d you stay out there.’ We’ve got to get off and make a play. It comes back to coaching. We’ve got to get our guys better in a lot of different areas.”

On Florida State: “We ran into a buzzsaw. At times we didn’t play well or coach well, and at times we did play well too. We did have a chance to go on the road and beat a really good team. That situation down the stretch, we didn’t respond to adversity they did. We’re 4-0, they’re 3-1.”

On the front four: “I think it goes without saying, the great defenses out there are disruptive up front. Without that you can still be good, I believe that. But the other guys have got to be really good. If they’re not disruptive every play, wreaking havoc on people… there’s not many of those around in college football or the NFL. The really good teams have (a strong front four). But the other guys have to play at a high level too. That always helps, let’s face it. It’s not there right now. Some of it is maturation, and some of it is, and some of it isn’t. It’s not there with the consistency that you like, and it’ll come the more we practice and play. Sometimes you’ve got to fail in order to grow and improve. Some guys have got to be challenged. Like everything, you want your guys to play great and you’ve got to get more out of less sometimes. At some places you’re not doing that like we need to.”

On personnel changes: “I’m disappointed in myself I didn’t get some more guys in there that were a little more fresh later. Some guys were a little fatigued, and it was obvious, we weren’t escaping some of the blocks with some of the violence or quickness, and that comes back to me. Some of the personnel things, I can get guys that have shown me I have trust in them, to get them on the field so they can stay fresh in certain situations. I thought Florida State did a good job of that. They’re built for that, got good strong depth, quality depth, not just in numbers but quality players. I need to be smarter that way.”

On leadership: “I think it’s good. I’ve not been disappointed. It would be so hard when you’re not having the kind of success that you want if you’re having character issues. And I have very little tolerance of that like most coaches do. That hasn’t been a problem whatsoever. The best teams I’ve been around have been player-driven. I like the leadership on our team.”

Willard on defensive issues, BC


On an anemic pass rush: “I think for us to continue to improve, that has to improve as well. I can go on so many things that have to improve as well. We’re getting pressure and we’re not covering to the flat, then you’ve got a problem. We can’t let people three-step all day and get behind us. We’re getting people three-stepping and they’re getting seven behind us, we’re not going to get the pressure.

“Seven on five when we do bring pressure, you can go eight, we haven’t been able to stay on top with the high safety as consistently as we need to. You can bring the whole team. It doesn’t mean that’s going to be the answer either. Starts with your (front) four. You want to get pressure from that. If that isn’t it, you bring five, if that isn’t it you bring six. That’s how the old cliché goes. When people are getting behind you, you’re giving up easy scores, that the dilemma you’re in. When people are having success running on you too, you bring edge pressure which should contain a jet sweep that goes for 64, you can play on your heels. We’ve got to get better at developing that front four and getting them better. I think they will. There’s youth there and they need to keep playing, doing the same things at practice as far as development. There’s a lot of changing parts that help that development too. “

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Comments » 4

33dtb writes:

If you focus on his belt buckle, he can't "juke" you in space.

4everAFanGOTIGERS writes:

12 is alrite... let up off Stephone ... i mean really cud u make a tackle while gettin block by a center or guard weighing in a 300 plus... yes he can take better angles and stop over pursuin the play so much ... but u cant really put it all on him.. he was the #1 OUTSIDE lb comin out of high school .. they have him playin inside where tony steward shud be playin the #1 middle lb comin out of high school... and im from camden ive seen malboro county play and lateek townsend was a beast on the edge and rushin the passer .. he's got great speed and he tackles well .. but 21 shud b gettin all the heat .. he cant cover for nothin ... been watchin this dude since last year and he's always givin up a big play .. rashard hall is liability and becuz he's a senior they let him play .. he bites on every play action or misdirection play .. and tacklin in the open field OMG he wiffs so many times or gets juked so easy man .. its terrible .. ive got faith in coach Vs scheme cuz its the same scheme that shut down that same fsu offense jus wish they wud stop toyin wit the talent senior or not if they not gettin the job done somebody else needs to get the same opportunity ...cant get no worse than it already is .. i mean we r favored to beat BC by at least 11pts but all that is becuz of the offense .. carlos watkins needs to get a look a dt ... reader needs to start along wit josh waston ..dw , grady , and carlos need to b the next guys up in the rotation to keep bodies fresh .. goodman needs to b a back up ... crawfords ok he has his moments .. they shud stand vic beasley up and let him speed rush the qb in dime situation or 3rd and long garry peters was rated as a higher db prospect the darius robinson and garry played qb and saftey in high school ...was a great athlete .. wat is he not doin so that he doesnt see the field ... n wat IS robinson doin that is keepin him on the field... besides that tho everything else looks gud .. n one more thing Giff has terrible footwork to b a tackle .. every gud de we go up against always gets past him .. lemioner for auburn had like 3 sacks ..n fsu ..OMG everybody had a field day wit him.. hate to down my coaches becuz i like wat they all bring to the table but how is this guy startin other than he big??? spencer region is a mammoth size lineman hes got to b one of the strongest why doesnt he get a look and put shatley bac on dline cuz he was physical and was always able to get penetration ... shaq anthony is more athletic and has better footwork and is aggressive .. shud start over giff point blank ...

4everAFanGOTIGERS writes:

im sorry man but i jus watched the highlights of the game against fsu man n all criticism that stephone anthony is gettin unfair ... man our dline jus not gud at all .. goodman was gettin pushed around tavares barnes gotta get that spot its the only way we gone get better he stronger and more athletic .. quandon christian was ok .. he cudve play a lot better and he did have opportunities to make plays and he jus wiffed... jus get reader and carlos watkins in da game ..

Lynx26 writes:

in response to 4everAFanGOTIGERS:

im sorry man but i jus watched the highlights of the game against fsu man n all criticism that stephone anthony is gettin unfair ... man our dline jus not gud at all .. goodman was gettin pushed around tavares barnes gotta get that spot its the only way we gone get better he stronger and more athletic .. quandon christian was ok .. he cudve play a lot better and he did have opportunities to make plays and he jus wiffed... jus get reader and carlos watkins in da game ..

LBS Should Be: Will= #46 Tig, Mike = #12 Anthony, Sam = #7 Steward.
Its just that simple. #34 CHristian gave us NOTHIN. He soft and gives no physicality to the defense. He's a agile LB thats not fast/quick enough to play safety.

Your MLB in college has to have knowledge and be a film/coaches guy. Thats why Steward isn't/wont be a MLB in college. his mental state isn't strong enough yet.

D-Line is poo... zero push. Esp our DE's. Beasley does bring a light motor- so use it on passing downs.

We'll be 10-3 this yr. 12-1 next year... As i stated 3 months ago.

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