Like an artist, Venables creates a unique masterpiece each week

Like an artist, Venables creates a unique masterpiece each week


Like an artist, Venables creates a unique masterpiece each week


Brent Venables is like a great painter.

Each week, Clemson’s defensive coordinator stares at a blank piece of paper and by the end of the week he has a masterpiece that is unique to anything else he has ever done before.

Of course, Venables’ work of art is not seen in a museum or hanging on someone’s wall at their home or office. No, his is displayed proudly each week on the football field where he draws up a game plan that is different to every opponent he faces.

“He has a relentless passion and then the football knowledge to attack what you do best,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “And then also he will use the personnel that we have in the best way week in and week out.”

Few coaches in college football scheme and devise a game plan better than Venables. Each week he throws out a different wrinkle or two that his opponent has not seen. He gives them looks that have quarterbacks confused and unable to tell what direction the pressure is coming from.

“There’s strain involved, and you enjoy that part until you get it worked out,” Venables said. “You’ve got to get everybody staff-wise to collaborate and do it together. You’ve got to get your players to be able to understand what you need to do in order to win. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but you have to give your players the best chance to be successful.”

When he comes into the film room at the beginning of a week, Venables will have a million different ideas running around in his head. He has already met with his defensive staff and given them his initial thoughts. Together they make a game plan they think the players can execute.

“He just kinds of feels us out on if we do like it or we don’t like it, and if we don’t, he asks questions about what he can improve on it and how it can be better,” safety Tanner Muse said. “So, he definitely has his ideas, but at the end of the day if we can’t understand them then they are not going to work. So, it is definitely give-and-take.”

In the end, Venables gets a plan together that fits his personnel and his personality. It is generally an attacking plan that is going to confuse the quarterback and have him thinking pressure is coming on every play, even if it is not.

Many wondered how top-ranked Clemson was going to combat the losses of four starters up front and five experienced linebackers. To this point, Venables has done it by playing to his strengths and using dynamic athletes like Muse and linebacker Isaiah Simmons in different ways.

Instead of playing his base 4-3 scheme, Venables has mostly employed a 3-3-5 scheme with multiple looks and designs that keeps offensive coordinators and quarterbacks guessing on what exactly he is doing.

“He is going to find a weakness and he is going to exploit it,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said.

Through three games thus far this year, no team has reached 300 yards on the Tigers and they have given up just 10 points per game. Clemson ranks second in the nation in sacks with 14.

“He has been great at what he does for a long, long time. He just has a ton of experience,” Swinney said. “Every week it is a new canvas to paint on and he is like an artist that has a great vision for what he wants to do week in and week out defensively.”

And each week, Venables creates a masterpiece of a game plan that most nights leaves him and his defense smiling at the results.

“There’s enjoyment, especially when it works, but that’s a daily challenge,” he said. “It’s a way to be competitive as a person. I get to come to work and be competitive every day. If you really feel like you didn’t do a good job today, you’re going to fail. That’s a good motivator in itself.”

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