Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables believes one of the reasons the Tigers were able to win the national championship last year was the team’s ability to sustain its success throughout the season.
In talking about his defense, he felt the Tigers for the most part stayed consistent in what they were doing and they were able to sustain it through the grind of a long season that lasted more than five months. In the same way, Venables believes that’s why the defense got exposed in the later part of the 2015 season.
He felt they maybe took teams for granted and did not always give it their all.
“You see it a lot in college football,” Venables said. “A team will start the season 5-0, but they can’t sustain that grind. They can’t handle success. Whether that is maturity, whether that is coaches, whether that is not taking care of their bodies the right way or whether it is not watching extra film all the way … they’re taking a team that maybe not everyone else respects, a team you are favored to beat by four touchdowns, and taking them for granted. Those are the things I’m talking about. It’s about sustaining the grind and the work ethic through the course of a fourth-month season. It is hard to do man. It is really hard.”
Venables believes Ben Boulware played a big part in why the Tigers were able to sustain that success in 2016. Clemson’s defense led the ACC in total yards and scoring defense. It ranked 8th nationally in total defense and 10th in scoring defense. It also was second in three-and-outs and led the country in total tackles for loss.
They were able to sustain all of that despite leading the country in the number of possessions to defend. In other words, no defense in the country was on the field defending its own goal line as much as Clemson’s defense in 2016.
This year, Venables looks to linebacker Kendall Joseph to be that guy to help keep his defense hungry and honest when the grind of a long season sets in.
“He is very passionate. He is very consistent. He is very Grady Jarrett like,” Venables said about his weakside linebacker. “He makes all the plays he is supposed to. He is hard on himself so I don’t have to coach him hard and correct him much. He knows it already.
“He is just a very natural and instinctual player behind the ball and a good strong tackler and very prideful with his work and how he goes about his business. He is super low maintenance.”
In 2016, Joseph ranked second on the team behind Boulware in overall tackles with 124. He also was tied for the team lead with 13.5 tackles for loss. He had 3.5 sacks, one interception and 16 quarterback pressures as well.
“He is real humble, hardworking and the players have great respect for him. It is a great comfort when you have that as sort of your cornerstone,” Venables said. “Then you also have a guy that has the playmaking ability and the experience that Dorian O’Daniel has amongst others. We have a very good group in regards to things I can testify … passionate, work ethic, toughness, low maintenance, serving one another, understanding the standard. They are detail-guys that dot the ‘I’s and cross the ‘T’s. As a coach, I have great comfort in knowing those things.”
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