By Chandler Carver.
After a scrimmage that saw the defense shine, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables was pleased with the play of his defensive tackles, and with the play of linebacker Jonathan ‘Tig’ Willard.
“I like how our guys responded today,” said Venables. “We had a lot of guys really showing up at the ball and they were very physical.”
“I thought Tig really showed up consistently today,” Venables continued. “There were some times that really stood out to me as plays Tig made very well. As a group, the linebackers have a lot to get better at. They all had some good and all had some bad today.
Venables said that the defensive tackles have made great progress throughout the spring.
“The DT’s have really showed up a lot since we’ve started practice,” he said. “There are about four guys who have consistently showed up. They’re not great every play, every day, but they’re learning to play more physical, to be disruptive and to play with leverage. We’re still trying to fine-tune a lot of little things. But, they’ve done a great job. Guys who haven’t really had a chance to play are getting in a position to help us. They played great on the goal line today.”
Venables said he’s been impressed this spring with the improvements made by players like Vic Beasley and Travis Blanks.
“Vic Beasley has been improving all spring, even though he hasn’t played very much,” he said. “He’s athletic; he can rush the passer; he’s gotten more physical and is really starting to understand how to play with technique and discipline. I know he can do it, he just has to do it every snap.”
“Travis Blanks has worked hard and picked things up very well ever since he got to campus. He’s really hard on himself and takes pride in what he does. He has high football intelligence and has good instincts. He plays well with this eyes and he’s always ready to go on the field. We’ve seen him consistently improve ever since he got here and I’ve been very pleased with his progress. He gives us another great body in space and can matchup with anyone. We’re trying to get him really good at the nickel position. He has a lot of flexibility and can do a number of things, but we want him to be really good at one thing.”
The defensive ends got a lot of work in the scrimmage yesterday because of the absence of Malliciah Goodman due to a test. Venables said this was good for that group of guys, because they need all the reps they can get.
“Malliciah’s absence today gave guys more reps than they would normally get,” Venables said. “They need those reps; they need a lot of work. In this league, you need guys that can rush the passer, and a year from now, Malliciah won’t be here, so it’s good to have the opportunity to start developing guys now. They need to step up. Some of the guys coming in are getting a chance to crack the two-deep because we’re not very deep there.”
The Tigers ran 100 plays in 80 minutes during the scrimmage yesterday, which is something Venables says is helpful to the defense.
“A lot of teams play fast now, so you have to adapt to it,” he said. “Our offensive coaches have gone above and beyond to help the defense get ready for a fast pace. You have to help each other during practice. These guys have to have the foundation and fundamentals to keep up with these offenses. If you can show that you have the ability to handle the tempo, you’ve taken a huge weapon away from the offense.”