Total defense is a deceptive stat, Brent Venables says. Big plays and points really tell the story.
And Clemson gave up far too many big plays in year one of his system.
The Tigers surrendered 45 completions of 20 or more yards, which ranked 93rd nationally.
“I’m tired of seeing the big plays,” Venables said. “That’s the big thing. You can’t play good defense giving up big plays. We’re going to play more snaps. We just are.
“I’m looking at points per game. If we improve by five points from a year ago, that’s a really good improvement.”
Five points’ improvement is about what Clemson did ’11 to ’12 (4.5), moving up 33 spots to a finish 48th in the nation in scoring ‘D.’ Five points better than that would have landed the Tigers in the top-20 nationally.
Overall, Venables says the goal is to make the leap towards a top-10 to 15 defense and that takes a combination of factors.
“Playing great on third down, great pressure, creating negative plays and playing great in the red zone again,” he said, “and keeping them out of the endzone – improving our scoring defense.”
Freshmen getting work at OLB: Redshirt freshman T.J. Burrell and true frosh Jayron Kearse are both getting work at SAM. T.L. Hanna’s own Ben Boulware is working in a crowded group at MIKE and Good Counsel’s Dorian O’Daniel is working at both outside spots.
The big-bodied Kearse came in with the potential to play on both sides of the ball – and multiple positions too.
In southwest Florida, he played both a dual-threat quarterback and wide receiver at Sammy Watkins’ alma mater South Fort Myers last season, in addition to safety where he earned local defensive player of the year honors (74 tackles, four INTs).
So far, Venables isn’t committing to a landing spot for the top-100 recruit (Scout), but his first comparison was to Travis Blanks, who started in a nickelback role last season.
“He’s over 200 pounds now and Travis Blanks played there last year at 190,” said Venables. “He’s 6-4 and runs a 4.5 (40-time). So, with that length it’s really like running 4.4.”
There’s one particular characteristic you will notice about him when he gets on the field.
“(He brings) length and athletic ability. He has a pretty good football IQ,” Venables said. “Good instincts. Good ball skills. Long, real long – did I say he was long?”