Clemson’s coordinators have been a little hesitant to hand out praise this spring, especially Brent Venables.
But through two strong scrimmages defensively, it’s hard to deny the improvement, as a unit and individually at key spots.
“(They) played with a good edge to them – toughness,” Venables said. “Played with effort. The first three-fourths of the scrimmage (Monday) were pleasing from an effort standpoint and attitude – then it was pretty inconsistent after that in some situational stuff.
D-line shows out in scrimmage
“(I) like the direction that we’re heading.”
Noting the effort and attitude wasn’t without purpose – that’s what he’s looking for this time of year.
“That gives you a chance to play and be successful,” said Venables, “and develop and get better. If you don’t have attitude, you don’t have a chance. Attitude and emotion is a great equalizer on the field.”
Rising junior defensive end Vic Beasley accounted for four of the defense’s 14 sacks Monday, continuing a strong spring session.
The Adairsville, Ga. native, who Dabo Swinney called Clemson’s “science project” a couple weeks ago, excelled in the speed rusher role last season with a team-best eight sacks, after previous stints on campus at linebacker and tight end.
“Like everybody, (Beasley’s) got to keep getting better,” Venables said. “He plays with good leverage, knows how to use his hands and understands gap control and all that. Playing with discipline that way is the biggest thing.
“Not getting nosy and putting his head where it doesn’t belong. He’s making improvement.”
Beasley is in the 230-weight range, but hopes to be around 245-250 this fall. He credits his improvement to getting into the playbook more in the offseason, “being more dedicated on and off the field.”
“You’ve got a have a good work ethic,” Beasley said. “That’s where it all starts. If you work at it, it will pay off on the field.”
At linebacker Monday, Oklahoma transfer Kellen Jones posted five tackles and three of those for loss, after grabbing a sack in the first scrimmage – in addition to Swinney’s rave reviews over the last month.
Venables’ assessment was a bit more tempered.
Effort there, Kellen Jones impresses
“I don’t know how many other good days he was having, but today was good,” Venables said. “Today was a good day for him. He showed up and he made improvement.”
Back from injury, junior Tony Steward got a taste of strongside linebacker with Quandon Christian out due to illness.
“He did pretty good,” said Venables, while assessing the unit’s performance as a whole. “Kinda gave him a crash course at the strongside position. It was good.
“T.J. Burrell was back out there. (Spencer) Shuey and Stephone (Anthony) were really good. B.J. (Goodson) did some good things. As a group, it was pretty solid.”
Going forward – after the initial praise, the work begins again looking at the tape this week, where Venables says they’ll find plenty to improve on before Saturday’s Orange-White game.
“There are plenty of mistakes in the scrimmage,” he said. “Trust me – it won’t be near as good as seeing it on tape as it was live in person when you see guys flying around and hitting, being physical and having fun and playing with emotion and toughness.
“You take the good with the bad.”