To take away Syracuse’s competitive advantage Clemson’s defense must know what do
When he was asked earlier this week if Syracuse’s fast-tempo offense was the biggest challenge for his defense, Brent Venables just smiled.
“All of it is a big challenge,” the Clemson defensive coordinator said. “Otherwise, why do they do it? The advantage is gained when you are not ready.”
The second-ranked Tigers, who host Syracuse at Death Valley on Saturday, were not ready in last year’s 27-24 loss to the Orange at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse totaled 440 yards against Clemson’s vaunted defense, who a lot of times were not set when Syracuse snapped the football.
Through the first four games this year, Syracuse leads the ACC in scoring offense (49.5 ppg) and total offense (523.3 ypg.).
“I think our guys have a good understanding of what they are getting into this week,” Venables said. “Obviously, Syracuse is off to a great start. They’re undefeated and averaging close to fifty points a game.
“They create a lot of challenges to you defensively. They have good players and a great quarterback. They’re an experienced team on both sides of the ball. Obviously, they have a lot of confidence after having whopped us last year. Our guys are excited about the challenge.”
It was an interesting storyline to a game that had so many last year. Though Clemson runs a no-huddle defense, the Tigers were looking confused at the sideline and often flustered as the Orange was snapping the ball at a fast pace that Venables and his unit could not keep up with.
“If you are ready, there is no advantage so getting them the calls is a big deal,” Venables said. “Then they will check the sideline to see what you are in and then get in the right call offensively. That is why they do what they do.
“See what you are in. They get you not lined up, first of all, so you are not playing in your gap and you are not playing with technique, you are not playing your assignment. So, you are no good in the run and you are no good in the pass.”
Then Syracuse, led by quarterback Eric Dungey, is off and running as they snap the ball at a high rate.
“Now they can go, go, go and can check,” Venables said. “Now they know what you are in.”
With Dungey leading the way, Syracuse kept Venables off balance all night as it ran for 162 yards, the most against the Clemson defense by a team not named Georgia Tech in 2017. The Orange also threw for 278 yards.
Dungey totaled 339 yards himself and threw three touchdown passes in last year’s upset win.
“If you are hurrying, hurrying and hurrying to get lined up, there is no chance to disguise, right? You anticipate the ball to be snapped right now. So, there is an inherent systematic advantage,” Venables said. “To me the goal is to take away the advantage by knowing what to do. Getting lined up. Playing with technique and just having a sense of desperation and urgency to get lineup and be in position to play good, fundamentally sound football.”