Heading into its latest win, Clemson found itself without the likes of many key defensive starters. Middle linebacker James Skalski, defensive tackle Tyler Davis and strongside backer Mike Jones miss the Tigers’ win over Boston College due to injuries.
While this would be a difficult task for most teams to get past, the Tigers have found a way to overcome the injuries.
Jake Venables, who stepped up in a big way last season when Skalski became unavailable in the national championship game after a targeting call, was one of those who stepped up.
“I was definitely excited,” Venables said. “I think it goes back to last year when I kind of stepped into the second team spot and I just kind of took my preparation to the next level just trying to prepare every game like I’m going to be the starter regardless of if I play or not. Even in the championship game when Skalski went down with the targeting call, I honestly had emotion.
“I was just kind of like, ‘Okay well, I was prepared for this moment, so here we go.’ And it was just kind of the same thing a few weeks ago. Even at the Wake Forest game and leading up to that, my preparation hasn’t changed really, but I was definitely excited even though Jamie was hurt. I was hurting for him, but I was ready to go.”
While the growing pains were apparent in Clemson’s seventh win of the season, Venables is very familiar with the amount of focus and preparation it takes to be the best, especially since he has played alongside some of the best defensive players in the country at Clemson and on some of the biggest stages in college football.
“This last week, our first half they just kind of made a lot more competitive plays on the ball and then we just kind of stepped it up and made those plays in the second half,” the linebacker said. “I think this week, we had a good day yesterday, so we’re off to a good start, but I just think everybody’s got to focus and get ready to go for this weekend.”
With Notre Dame on the horizon, the Tigers continue to look towards their depth and experience to help carry them to the post season. With his experience and grit, Venables is confident in his team’s ability to stay consistent and be successful against any team that comes their way; even No. 4 Notre Dame.
“I think they are a veteran group,” Venables said. “They’re definitely pretty good and they’ve been good this year, but it’s kind of stuff that we’ve seen before in all of our games. It’s definitely going to be a big physical and mental challenge all week leading up to the game, but we gotta get ready to go in practice.”