Brent Venables just doesn’t throw around compliments. When he compliments a player or brags about him in the public eye, there is a good reason as to why.
Venables loves to brag about former Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware, and for good reason. Boulware just did not wear his heart on his jersey sleeve every day in practice or in games, he came to work and he loved it.
Clemson’s defensive coach described Boulware as a selfless leader who put the team’s needs in front of his own goals, even if it meant costing him post-season recognition and awards.
“He exhausted every moment,” Venables said, “and had a commitment that is greater than his vision and his goals. Will we have that?”
Those are the things Venables said he is still looking for as the Tigers head into fall training camp on Aug. 4.
Venables, who is entering his sixth season as Clemson’s defensive coordinator, said the Tigers have enough talented players to be as good as they were last year on defense. However, just having talented guys coming back does not insure they will be a great defense.
“If we have enough guys that do and the leaders have that same commitment, then we will have a chance to have a really good, strong year,” he said. “If we do not have that commitment then it can go bad in a minute.”
Obviously, the 2014 defense, which led the nation in total defense as well as 10 other defensive categories, set the standard at Clemson in terms of defensive production, but Venables says the 2016 unit was great too because they always had a belief and a commitment to being the best.
Last year’s defense led the ACC in total defense and ranked eighth nationally overall. They also ranked 10th nationally in scoring defense as well.
“We are not there yet. We have a long ways to go,” Venables said about the potential of the 2017 unit. “We do have a great group of guys that know how to work. We have a big summer in front of us. What you put in is what you are going to get out of it.
“There are a lot of guys that still need to develop and come along that will have an opportunity to start. We have four or five spots that we are still looking at hard. Again, we have some depth issues at other spots. We will have a chance to win every game next year and we will have a chance to lose them, too. Past success does not have anything to do with future success so our guys have to have that zoom in focus and take care of what is in front of us.”
Clemson has to replace four starters on defense this year, as well as reserve defensive tackle Scott Pagano who transferred to Oregon. Those five players will not be easy ones to replace. The Tigers also lost reserve defensive end Richard Yeargin to a neck injury and reserve safety Korrin Wiggins transferred to East Carolina.
“There are a lot of things we have to get better at,” Venables said. “Replacing the starters that left and the playmaking and the belief and the leadership that went along with those. Developing depth, and again, we will see if they will stay hungry.
“Are they going to be tough? Are they going to be able to handle adversity? Are they willing to commit and invest?”
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