Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is seeking to develop a comfort zone in his Tigers during spring practice.
Offensive coordinator Chad Morris is determined to make his players as uncomfortable as possible.
Different personalities, different circumstances, different expectations.
Entering his second season at Clemson, Venables sees his players benefitting from familiarity with what he's asking them to do - unlike this time a year ago, when neither Venables nor his defenders knew exactly what to make of each other.
This time around, with most of Clemson's defensive players back from the unit's best showing of the season against LSU, Venables sees the Tigers' comfort level as an important asset.
The early decision to install junior Stephone Anthony at the middle linebacker spot and let senior Spencer Shuey swing between the inside and outside positions is a reflection of Venables' approach.
"Stephone is really comfortable," Venables said. "He's just now getting comfortable at 'Mike.' I would hate to put him in a position where he now has to start over."
Venables foresees Kellen Jones, who played a season for him as a freshman at Oklahoma, immediately competing for playing time, in part because of his comfort level with the defense.
“He is very comfortable with the system," Venables said. "When he gets in there he is very disruptive and very instinctive and he plays super fast."
Although the Tigers are shorthanded this spring in the secondary, until eight signees arrive this summer, helping the players on the field establish a base of comfort and confidence is among spring practice's main objectives for Venables and Dabo Swinney.
"Our objective is to take this group and come out of spring with these guys being confident, and then ramp it up this summer when that other posse gets here," said Swinney.
On the other side of the ball, Morris is taking a different approach by pushing his players - many of them with one season, and several with two seasons in his system - out of their comfort zone. He's pushing harder, while adding new twists and turns to the offense.
“Spring isn’t about being comfortable," said Morris. "Being comfortable is going and sitting on your couch. These guys aren’t going to be comfortable during the spring, and it’s our job to push them out of their comfort zone and strain them extremely hard.”
That starts with the rock around which Clemson will build its offense, 2012 ACC player of the year Tajh Boyd.
“I want to see a healthy competition and I think we’re going to have that," Morris said. "I think they (competing backup quarterbacks Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly) should be challenging each other and pushing Tajh to make Tajh better.
"We all know what Tajh has done and it’s really my job as his coach and coordinator to push him out of his comfort zone."
The same is true for all of Clemson's offensive players, he said.
“Our theme offensively is that we want them uncomfortable right now," Morris said. "That's what we told our offense."
Both Boyd and Kelly plan a working spring break, as they'll fly to California this weekend to work with noted quarterback guru George Whitfield, with whom Boyd spent spring break last year.
Spring Practice Notes
Tiger Secondary Hurting: Freshman defensive back Jadar Johnson suffered a dislocated elbow in practice last week and safety Travis Blanks suffered a head injury in practice on Monday, per the school, and likely will be out until after spring break.
Clemson has just one more practice, on Wednesday, before spring break, and resume on March 25.
Linebacker Rotation: Junior outside linebacker Tony Steward said he is running with the second-team, along with B.J. Goodson and Marcus Bullard. With the first-team, Steward said it's Stephone Anthony (MLB), Spencer Shuey (WLB) and Quandon Christian (SLB).
Anthony says it's a fierce competition right now.
"Some of the new faces and the guys we've got coming back, I feel we'll be stacked," Anthony said. "We got a chance to be real good if we work at it every day."
Night and day: Defensive tackle Josh Watson says right after the win against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl - he flipped on the film from the opener against Auburn in the same venue.
"To look at that, you just want to close your eyes," Watson said. "Wow, we were really that bad the first time at the Georgia Dome.
"To see it come full circle - as I stated in some interviews earlier in the season - it wasn't going to look as good in the beginning of the year as it was in the end, and I think we pulled through that and became a better defense and showed that we can compete at a high level."
He says they matured most midseason when they could see themselves on tape after an offseason of looking at Venables' last stop, Oklahoma.
"As we got through the season, we got to see ourselves on film and see the mistakes and go and correct them," said Watson. "We got the best coach in the country, in coach (Dan) Brooks, and all the credit goes to him honestly."