By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
It’s hard to imagine if Brent Venables has had much of summer break.
Clemson’s defensive coordinator has the task of shutting down a Georgia offense that returns one of the country’s best quarterbacks in Aaron Murray, one of the top running backs in Todd Gurley and one of the best and most experienced offensive lines in the country as well.
In other words, the Bulldogs are already giving Venables headaches just thinking about them.
“I think Nebraska was the number one pass defense in the country and UGA went up and down the field on them like they were going against a scout team at times,” Venables said. “We will have our hands full.”
Murray threw for 427 yards and five touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 45-31 win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl this past January, while the offense amassed 589 yards in all.
“It’s a huge challenge,” Venables said in regards to stopping Georgia. “Obviously, they are as good as anyone in the country. In terms of experience, they have a good play caller in Mike Bobo, and their quarterback is like another coach on the field. He’s a great player.
“They have a great supporting cast, their offensive line and their running backs are all-world. They are as good as advertised.”
Georgia, who went 12-2 and was just five yards away from playing for a national championship, averaged 37.8 points per game in 2012, while racking up 467.6 yards per game. With Gurley leading the way with 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns, the running game averaged 182.6 yards per contest, while Murray paced the passing game with 285.1 yards.
Murray finished the season with 3,893 yards, while completing 64.5 percent of his passes in Bobo’s pro-style offense. He also threw an SEC record 36 touchdown passes and had only 10 interceptions. His 174.82 passer rating led the nation.
“It’s a great challenge for us as an opener, but I think they also look at it like Clemson’s a good challenge for them as well,” Venables said. “Our guys are excited about that game. It’s still a month or so away and it will get here soon enough.”
Though Georgia will be perhaps the best offense Venables and the Tigers have seen since last year’s Florida State team, Clemson should be much improved on defense. The Tigers did get better as the year went along last season and they return a lot of depth and experience in their front seven.
Clemson finished the year with 27 sacks in the last six games of the season to rank 20th in the country in that category. The Tigers also had the 15th best red zone defense in the nation and led the ACC with that statistic.
The Tigers also improved in their run defense the second half of the year as opponents averaged only 102 yards a night the last six games. But Venables understands Georgia will be a different kind of beast with Gurley and Keith Marshall (759 yards, 8 TDs) in the backfield, plus Murray at quarterback. It also doesn’t help Clemson might still have some issues in the secondary.
“They present a lot of challenges for everyone they play, and as we all know, they were five yards away from playing in the National Championship Game,” he said. “They’ve got a happening football team coming back, but we feel like we do as well.”