Venables on his linebackers: ‘We have depth’

Venables on his linebackers: ‘We have depth’

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Venables on his linebackers: ‘We have depth’

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Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables shared his expectations for Clemson’s defensive line at Tuesday’s media kickoff in Clemson. Venables has several big positions to fill, but he is confident in the ability of his players and the maturity of their skills leading up to Clemson’s opener against the yellow jackets.

Venables on rebuilding the defensive line

“Every year you don’t take anything for granted, you have to just start over. We have some really strong pieces that we feel good about, but there’s a lot of unknown. We got a lot to prove and a long way to go to continue to build our defense. I thought our spring was solid, not spectacular. I think there was a lot of buy-in in regard to the investment and the toughness that it takes, but I really believe that toughness and the ability to play on a strong, consistent level is something you earn overtime. We just have a long way to go right now to look like we did the last time we played.”

Venables on excitement around new freshman

“I’m excited about all of them. Just check back here in a couple weeks after we’ve started over. You expect this growth to take place more at the end of the spring and exponentially it will happen, and I think they will come back with a lot of confidence. They are working on drills about three times a week and I think they are in that film room almost every day. I think they had a great summer with player-led meetings and practices and were really good at what looks like where they are at right now. We have a hungry group of guys that are really looking forward to their opportunity and that also brings a sense of humility that’s refreshing as well. They are willing to be coached, willing to be led and I think that’s one of the best strengths you can have as a young player or high school player is your willingness to play. That’s going to help the process too and the maturity.”

Venables on his linebacker group

“I really like the group. I think they are going to be undervalued. They put a depth chart out that’s not really accurate right now, but we have depth. We’ve got guys who can run, hit, can think, have instincts, and have toughness. I really like the group and I think it’s a strong leadership position for guys that have played a lot of winning football between Isaiah Simmons, Chad Smith, and James Skalski. Baylon Spector really showed signs of transitioning well, just as a special teams player a year ago, he can really run, hit, and is very smart. Then you have other guys like Mike Jones, Jake Venables, and those group of freshmen that really feel good about their size, athletic ability, and speed. They are really going to have to help us and a year from now we will be losing two-thirds of that starting group again. So, between this year’s recruiting class and the 2020 recruiting class, it’s going to be really critical to build our defense for the future. This is a group of guys I feel really good about and I spend no time wondering if it’s the best we’ve had. You understand where your strengths are and you try to play to those strengths and try to protect those weaknesses, help guys grow up and train them, find out what their capable of and develop them.”

Venables on Skalski’s potential

“I don’t think it’s just potential, I think anytime he’s been on the field, he’s made plays. He’s a ballhawk in that he knows where it’s going, has tremendous instincts, and other than Simmons, is one of our most athletic guys and has been the last few years. He was the one guy that was a viable redshirt guy, we could get by because we had such great depth a year ago, and it was just remembering that it’s a developmental game and that his best football was sitting right in front of him. That’s why we put the plan in place, knowing we would lose four guys for sure, and didn’t anticipate losing six, but we have just been trying to plan ahead. He’s easily our biggest hitter, a natural contact hitter, knows how to play behind his pads, plays in and out of traffic extremely well, can fly, very athletic, tremendous change in direction, heavy hands, gets off of blocks, and is just a fabulous football player. He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played and loves every bit of it. He loves the grind, the adversity, knows how to respond, knows how to lead, understands what it looks like to play at a high level, and takes pride in putting the paw on every day.”

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