The Tigers need a third safety, and the first-year freshman from South Fort Myers, Fla. earned the first shot. "Nobody gets better standing on the sidelines," Swinney said.
Kearse's transition became a bit more abrupt than anticipated, however, when sophomore starter Travis Blanks went down with a knee injury early in the Syracuse game.
Kearse responded well to his first full-time call to duty, as he made five tackles and notched his first career interception late in the game.
"I'm thankful we had gotten Jayron some quality experience (in the Wake Forest game)," Swinney said. "He wasn't overwhelmed. He was all over the place, and he misaligned a bunch and things like that. But he's also athletically gifted enough that he can overcome some things."
"It's a tough position to learn, and he's done a good job," said Venables of Kearse. "I've seen him make incremental improvement the last couple or three weeks. And like most young guys, the more he plays, the better he'll get. We had expectations, and he's done pretty well."
At 6-4, 205 pounds, Kearse - who starred on both sides of the ball in high school - brings a unique physical presence to the Tiger secondary.
"I've never had a 6-4 safety, but I don't know of any disadvantages," Venables said. "He's got a chance to be a really good player. He's just a young player who needs to continue to add strength and weight. He's not afraid or timid from a contact standpoint, and he's got good instincts and good range."
Overall, Swinney said he's seen season-long improvement from the Tigers' safeties.
"We've missed some tackles, but I think we've improved since the first game," he said. "Also, we've started to develop some depth. Safety is a tough position to play. They're involved in a lot of things, making a bunch of checks and calls. I've seen Jayron, Jadar (Johnson) and (Taylor) Watson all coming along. I really like our players.
"We need to tackle better, and we need to make sure we're taking the taking the proper angles. But we're not busting. Guys aren't running free. We're playing very sound. It's just about physically executing things a little bit better."