By William Qualkinbush
For defensive coordinators in big-time college football, every week is different.
Each team on the schedule poses certain problems with various talented personnel cast in creative ways. Each system is unique in the way they highlight those players. However, most teams are scouted differently from year to year based largely on the contributions of certain key players.
According to Brent Venables, Georgia Tech is a different animal. In the case of the Yellow Jackets, preparation is more about team scheme than individual talent.
“The scouting report stays the same with them from year to year because of what they do and why they make it tough and all of those kinds of things,” Venables said. “Hopefully the extra time in preparation gets us better fundamentally.”
Eighth-ranked Clemson has amped up its attention level in certain areas to get ready for the Yellow Jackets’ invasion into Memorial Stadium on Thursday night. While Venables understands the preoccupation people have with defending the option looks Georgia Tech will throw at his players, he also knows his team will need to be at its best doing what it does in order to have success.
“They do it very, very well in a very precise way,” Venables said of Tech’s system. “You have to match that precision.”
Venables knows his unit has a difficult road ahead because of the way it played last season. The second-year Tiger coordinator has been adamant with his team that it cannot be as sloppy in carrying out its assignments as it was at times in 2012, when Georgia Tech held a late lead before a turnover and a safety gave Clemson control.
The key, according to Venables, is simply having players who have been there and done that with this scheme once before—although his memories of the contest are skewed to highlight the mistakes made throughout the course of the game.
“We didn’t leverage the ball very well,” he reminisced. “We lost consistency with our assignments. They came out with a new formation, and it took us a few series to get adjusted.
“I think we’re better than what we were going into this game a year ago. We’ll see if we can play better. We need to play better.”
Perhaps the greatest concern for Venables is the enhanced presence of cut blocking defenders on the move. He was frank in describing some of Georgia Tech’s tactics in that regard “borderline illegal” in approach, and he says the threat of losing a player to a knee injury is higher if there is not an enhanced state of awareness.
“We can’t lose guys to getting cut and put on the ground. If we’re on the ground, we’re not going to stop these guys. We’ve got to stay on our feet to have any chance whatsoever, across the board.”
Venables left his press conference with a comment about how the gameplan would be the same for Georgia Tech next year. It elicited some laughter from the media, but he was quite serious.
If football was just about planning, this would be an easy week. But it is not, which makes preparing for the Yellow Jackets a nightmare for coaches like Venables.