It’s not uncommon for Brent Venables to jump behind the scout team center and emulate the opposing team’s quarterback. If Clemson’s defensive coordinator has a certain look or call he wants his defense to know about, he rather do it himself.
Generally though, Venables lets the scout-team quarterback give his defense the necessary looks they need to prepare for a game. However, there is an exception – Georgia Tech, who the third-ranked Tigers will play on Thursday at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta.
Because of the Yellow Jackets’ unique triple-option offense, Venables wants to make sure his defense is getting everything they need to know about Paul Johnson’s offense. So the Clemson coach seldom turns the keys over to the scout-team quarterback, which can be frustrating to his players at times.
Linebacker Ben Boulware wants him to move out of the way so he can tackle the quarterback, though he has been known from time-to-time to hit his position coach and coordinator.
“I have hit him before. I have hit him several times, but they are mostly like pushing him and stuff like that,” Boulware said. “But he wants us to hit him. He likes it. He gets fired up when we do.”
Venables also gets fired up when he burns the defense on a play to make his point. Like when he plays out a fake and hits a wide receiver in stride for a touchdown.
“Unfortunately, with (Georgia Tech), when they are open, they are usually for touchdowns,” Venables said on Tuesday. “We have fun with it.”
Some times Venables has a little too much fun.
“He definitely gets a big head when he comes in and completes a pass against the defense. We definitely don’t like letting that happen,” linebacker Kendall Joseph said.
Joseph said Venables comes out to practice ready to go and fired up as he goes over and shows every little thing he can about the Yellow Jackets’ offense.
“He’s out there full of sweat, his shirt is soaking wet. It is a great look for us. He pushes the envelope and has a great tempo for the scout team,” Joseph said. “He actually knows what he wants us to look at so he actually pushes the scout team faster. It is great for us.”
The look Venables has been giving the last three years in preparation for Georgia Tech has been working. In each of the last three seasons, Clemson’s defense has held the Yellow Jackets well below their season average in rushing yards.
In 2013, Tech averaged 299.3 yards per game on the ground. Clemson allowed just 248. In 2014, the Yellow Jackets scored just one offensive touchdown and kicked two field goals, while its rushing attack was limited to 251 yards – 91 yards below their season average of 342.1 yards per game.
Last year, Johnson’s team was held to 71 yards and averaged just 1.7 yards per carry. The 71 yards were 185 yards below their season average.
“I just have experience with the offense. I have been able to control the tempo, the mesh points and how to operate the offense pre-snap,” Venables said. “Scouts are a little more scared of me so I can hurry up and get them lined up faster. Snap it when I want to. Make sure the defense is adjusted the right way so if I need to stop just before I snap it I can. I’m just being efficient.”
Venables says he plays quarterback because what Tech does is just so unconventional, though it is still simplistic in a lot of ways.
“This is a different type of preparation. I’m sure every defensive coordinator sits in front of the media and says that the week of a game when they are playing a triple-option type team, one they are not used to,” he said. “Some principals carry over, but most of them don’t so you have to change a lot of things and get the players caught up familiarity wise and technique wise.”
Safety Jadar Johnson says Venables brings a little something extra to practice when he plays quarterback, and all the players want to make sure he does not show them up.
“There’s been a couple times where I just wanted to take him off his feet,” Johnson said, laughing. “I actually like it when he gets at quarterback because he makes it more intense, because if he completes a ball on you, he isn’t going to let you live it down.
“‘You let me complete a ball on you. I can only imagine what he is going to do to you.’ It just brings an extra edge to practice. … If Coach V throws the ball in the air, I will not let anybody catch that ball.”
And that is the whole point. If they don’t want Venables burning them in practice, they are not going to want Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas to do it either.