Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables spoke with the media on Tuesday at his weekly press conference and touched on his defense as well as what the fifth-ranked Tigers must do in order to stop Kent State’s offense in Saturday’s season opener in Death Valley.
Venables also spoke about his unit’s confidence heading into the new season and how it compares to some of his other defenses at Clemson.
Question: When we talked the other day after the scrimmage, you weren’t very pleased with the defense. How are you feeling about them now going into the opener?
Venables: “Better than that day. It was a good camp. I feel like we got better. We are developing a lot of young guys to compliment the guys who are returning. I am pleased with the progress we have made sense then. I am looking forward to developing our identity on defense. That will take place throughout the course of the year. I am just anxious to get a chance to play someone else and see what our guys can do and watch all of their hard work being rewarded.”
Question: What are some things you have seen with Kent State? I know they like to run their quarterback a lot…
Venables: “They are very multiple with what they do. They have speedy receivers on the outside and use them a variety of ways. Jet sweeps and they will attack you vertically. They have a couple of good running backs. Justin Rankin was a young player, just a freshman a year ago. Excellent player, good speed, tough, and physical. Then the quarterback (Nick Holley) can really fly. Tough guy, very physical, excellent quickness and speed. They are very multiple with what they do so a little bit kind of like Pitt in a lot of their formations, motions and things of that nature. We are going to really need to come out and be incredibly disciplined and focused. Aligning right way, high discipline, and gap integrity, setting the edge to the defense. It will be a good challenge for us out of the gate just in regards to as just mental as it is anything.”
Question: Tanner Muse, what has his progression been like and what has he done to separate himself?
Venables: “His preparation, just his understanding of the defense. He tried to work hard at it a year ago but sometimes it just doesn’t come right away and for most it doesn’t. But he worked really hard in the off season studying tape, getting more and more familiar with the language, learning how to play fast, being able to diagnose an offensive formation or a motion adjustment just faster. So, the game has kind of slowed down for him so that he can play faster. I think that is maturation with his understanding mentally of the game. He has also worked hard physically as well to improve in areas that he needed to. His teammates have a lot of respect for him. It is really all of those things but he is physical and he’s got terrific top in speed and he cares. He is very passionate about the game and his role. He really, really cares and as a result he lets you coach him hard and he takes responsibility when things aren’t right and he goes to work. He tries to correct his mistakes. When you have accountability in your program and you have players that really care about what you think, about what their teammates think and about their role, you will have success and that guy (Muse) is a living proof of that.”
Question: Do you feel that the defense this year has a different level of confidence than previous defenses?
Venables: “Well I definitely sense a confidence but I sensed a confidence from those guys a year ago. Sometimes you hardly have anybody coming back that was a previous starter and you do well. You do a lot better than people think you will. Then sometimes you get a lot of starters back and for whatever reason the chemistry isn’t right, the commitment isn’t there, maybe you have some injuries and you don’t meet your expectations and sometimes you exceed them. Every year is just different. Ultimately it’s the people, the leadership, having some good luck, staying healthy, your matchups and then you always have to have some guys coming along.”