Brent Venables was caught off guard earlier this week when a reporter asked him what it must feel like for opposing defensive coordinators to prep for No. 2 Clemson’s offense this year.
“I know what it is like. It’s not like, ‘What would it be like.’ I know what it is like,” Venables said. “It’s tough. It can be humbling at times.”
Clemson returns eight starters, not counting a guy named Mike Williams, from a unit that averages 38.5 points and led the ACC with 514.5 yards per game in 2015. Venables’ defense sees Deshaun Watson and company every day in practice. So if anyone knows what Clemson’s offense is capable of doing, it is Brent Venables.
Let’s just say, the Tigers’ defensive coordinator is not envy of Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele this Saturday when Clemson visits the SEC’s Tigers down on the Plains.
“It’s very difficult,” Venables said. “Obviously, their ability to run the ball effectively with (Watson), a great quarterback that can throw the ball and can improvise and extend plays, they have a designed quarterback run game, which forces other issues schematically on defense. Then there are some terrific wideouts that all have different skill sets, size, speed and explosiveness.
“Then they have a tight end, too, that can attack you over the middle. That is a tough matchup for a linebacker.”
In other words, Clemson doesn’t have many weaknesses on offense, if any at all. So could they possibly be the best offense to have ever played the game in college football?
“I do think this offense is going to something that is very unheard of here,” tight end Jordan Leggett said. “As far as the best ever, we had some guys from Nebraska from back in the day, and they told us about their stats, and it was ridiculous.
“We can definitely strive to be the best offense in (Death Valley), and try to hopefully get in the top ten of the best offenses ever, but I’m definitely excited to see what this offense can do.”
Last year’s offense holds the notion of being the best offense to have ever played in Clemson Memorial Stadium, from a yards per game standpoint. However, the 2012 unit, which featured Tajh Boyd at quarterback, DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins at wide receiver and Andre Ellington at running back, might be the best overall, from a statistical standpoint.
That group averaged 41.0 points and 512.7 yards per game.
However, from an overall talent standpoint, this year’s offense can potentially shatter every mark set by the 2012, ’13 and ’15 units.
“I feel like the offense is the most experienced part of our team, just with all the depth we have at every position. We didn’t have to replace a lot of people from last year so I think it is going to be the strength of our team,” Leggett said. “Then when you think about all the playmakers we have out there at our skill positions, it is going to be very interesting on how defenses try to cover it with the people we have in the backfield and the people we have split out.”
And let’s not forget about the offensive line. Led by All-ACC center Jay Guillermo and All-ACC guard Tyrone Crowder, plus All-ACC left tackle Mitch Hyatt, the Tigers return one of the best and most experienced offensive lines in the country.
In other words, if you are Kevin Steele this week, what would you do?
“Auburn has good players. They don’t have a bunch of slouches, they have good players,” Venables said. “They have recruited really, really well on both sides of the ball and they have a veteran group over on defense, too.
“As with everybody, it all starts up front and they probably have some opportunities where they feel like they can neutralize some of our strengths, too.”