Venables: Freshmen 'knocking on the door' have opportunity coming soon

Football - Dabo Swinney helps Mackensie Alexander stretch before practice on Saturday

Photo by Mark Crammer

Football - Dabo Swinney helps Mackensie Alexander stretch before practice on Saturday

CLEMSON - Brent Venables hasn't spent the amount of time he probably figured he would with five-star cornerback Mackensie Alexander.

From day one in camp, the Immokalee, Fla. native had a nagging injury that kept him off the practice field - and then required surgery in October, clinching a redshirt bid.

No, it wasn't until the last week that the second-year Tigers' DC started to work with the talented DB, who had offers ranging from Alabama to Southern Cal before picking Clemson on Signing Day.

"He's done well," Venables said. "He's feeling better and feeling more confident. Getting his smile back a little bit."

The after-practice JV sessions have been quite beneficial for both the players and the coaches to get those extra looks in Orange Bowl practice.

"It's good. Got them in the PAW drill or got them in skelly. We're coaching them," said Venables. "There's a lot of intensity and we're getting after them. Everybody's watching. Like every year, it's a great opportunity to get a few extra reps and develop those guys and put them in some stressful situations and bring them a long.

"Defense in particular is trained reaction and you have to develop fundamentals and toughness. This is kind of a precursor of the spring for those guys."

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney praised redshirt linebacker Dorian O'Daniel and defensive tackle Scott Pagano specifically Thursday. Venables isn't so quick to hand out individual honors going into the meat of Ohio State prep.

"Nah, we'll wait and see. It's always hard," Venables said. "There's a lot of good young guys. First thing I see from them is they like to play and like to compete. Are a confident group of guys. We don't lose much (this offseason), but they'll jump right in and compete.

"They were knocking on the door this last fall and have a great opportunity to step in and compete and make this defense better."

On the defensive side, Alexander, Pagano and O'Daniel are joined by Adrian Baker (DB), Ryan Carter (DB), Marcus Edmond (DB), D.J. Greenlee (LB), Ebenezer Ogundeko (DE) and Dane Rogers (DE) as players who will have four years of eligibility left.

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