When he calls a Clemson game, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit will generally make it down by Thursday so he can take in the Tigers’ final practice of the week. Normally, because of Clemson’s explosive offensive weapons, Herbstreit will watch the offense more than the defense.
But when he arrived in Clemson on Thursday, Herbstreit made it clear who he was there to see.
“It is the first time I have come to the Clemson Thursday practice and immediately came to the defensive side of the field to watch Brent (Venables) and the defense and to see their plan,” he said.
Herbstreit, who is in Clemson to call Saturday’s 8 p.m. game between No. 4 Louisville and No. 3 Clemson on ABC, is anxious to see if Venables has conjured up any scheme to stop the Cardinals’ Lamar Jackson, who in the first month of the season has racked up more than 1,800 yards and 25 total touchdowns.
“If there is a coordinator to give credence to, it would be Brent based on his success. I can’t wait to see the plan he comes up with and how he takes away Lamar Jackson or if he is able to,” Herbstreit said on Friday as he spoke to the media and previewed ESPN’s College GameDay Show from Bowman Field.
Venables’ defense ranks third nationally in yards allowed (218.5) heading into Saturday’s game, and is coming off a performance in which the Tigers held Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense, on a short week nonetheless, to 124 total yards, including just 95 on the ground.
It was the sixth best performance by a Clemson defense against an FBS opponent, dating back 1978.
Herbstreit says what Venables has done with the Clemson defense after so many players leaving early to the NFL the last three years is one of the better coaching jobs in the country. The Tigers rank in the top five nationally in six of the eight major categories on defense this year.
“I don’t know if people nationally respect and admire what Clemson has done these last three or four years defensively because their offense has been so dynamic from the years Chad Morris was here and left, and of course Deshaun Watson has come in with Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott,” Herbstreit said. “The offense is doing things and probably breaking every record in the Clemson record books. Meanwhile, the defense loses guys early to the NFL the last three years and somehow they get better. I think it is an amazing story and really it is a credit to Dabo and his staff and the way they recruit, and also by what Brent is doing on that side of the ball.”