There are plenty of questions he'll have to answer by the time Clemson opens next September against Auburn in the Georgia Dome.
Venables will start working on answers to the questions when spring
practice opens in March.
Here's an early look:
1. What will happen with Clemson's defensive line?
All of the starters from the 2010 Clemson defensive will be in the NFL by
the time Venables coaches his first game at Clemson. Assuming Brandon Thompson and Andre Branch go within the first two rounds of the draft
later this spring, all of the starters from that unit would have been
drafted within the first two rounds.
Also gone are guys like Miguel Chavis, Rennie Moore and Kourtnei Brown.
That's seven departures over two years, the majority of which will also be in
And, of course, all of that turnover makes for an extremely young defensive line.
Assuming Tyler Shatley sticks around at defensive tackle, he and Malliciah Goodman will be the most experienced defensive linemen. The rest of the
defensive line will be freshmen and sophomores.
Last season, Corey Crawford saw 252 snaps at defensive end while DeShawn Williams finished with 138 at tackle. Tackles Tavaris Barnes and Grady Jarrett played 73 and 61 snaps, respectively. Also at tackle, Josh Watson
logged 21 and Tra Thomas played eight. All were freshmen.
Venables will add talented prospects in tackle Carlos Watkins and ends
Shaquille Lawson and Martin Aiken; but it will make an already young
defensive line that much younger.
2. Will Venables go young or stay old at linebacker?
Unlike the defensive line, there's plenty of returning experience at
linebacker. Senior Corico Hawkins, redshirt senior Jonathan Willard and
redshirt junior Quandon Christian spent last season listed as the starters
on the depth chart.
Hawkins, who started 11 games at middle linebacker, finished last season
fourth on the team in tackles with 76 and first among linebackers with 697
snaps. Willard and Christian played 635 and 411 snaps, respectively.
Spencer Shuey, also an upperclassman, played 48 snaps.
Of the highly touted 2011 linebacker class, Stephone Anthony played the
most [292 snaps]. Tony Steward was second with 36, but he suffered a torn
ACL midway through the season. Lateek Townsend logged three snaps. Most of
his impact was felt on special teams by recording 16 tackles.
The other 2011 freshman linebackers, B.J. Goodson and Colton Walls, took
Unlike Steele's first two seasons at Clemson, Venables will have plenty of
options to choose from at linebacker in 2012.
3. Can the secondary forget about 2011?
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith threw for 401 yards and six
touchdowns against Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
Even outside the Orange Bowl, it wasn't a great season for the Clemson secondary.
Before the game, the Tigers ranked 55th in pass efficiency defense with a
rating of 127.41 and 35th in pass defense with an average of 202.92 yards
Clemson allowed several big-time passing performances in 2011.
Troy threw for 258 yards, Florida State had 336, North Carolina racked up
316 and N.C. State went for 253. Those four teams combined to throw nine
touchdowns and four interceptions against the Tigers.
The only defensive back who won't be back for the Tigers in 2012 is
cornerback Coty Sensabaugh. And there's plenty of help on the way with the
4. How about dual-threat quarterbacks?
The biggest knock on Kevin Steele over the last three years was the
inability of Clemson defenses to slow down running quarterbacks.
It was a recurring issue, whether it was Conner Shaw, Tevin Washington or
C.J. Brown in 2011; Cam Newton and E.J. Manuel a year earlier or Joshua
Nesbitt (twice) and Andy Dalton in 2009.
Maybe it was press-man coverage in the secondary. Maybe it was the
aggressive blitzing. Maybe it was a combination of scheme, players and
Whatever it was, Clemson fans certainly want it to stop.
5. Will there be any staff chages?
It's probably safe to assume that Venables spent plenty of time last
weekend getting to know Dan Brooks, Charlie Harbison and
And it's probably safe to assume Dabo Swinney asked for input from
Brooks, Harbison and Hobby as he began the search for Steele's
Taking the previous assumptions into consideration, it's probably safe to
assume there's a mutual respect between Venables and the defensive
assistants already on staff. But it's worth asking.
Will any changes be made?
Brooks' track record with defensive tackles speaks for itself. Both
Harbison and Hobby have experience as defensive coordinators. And all
three have made serious inroads with 2012 recruits.
Five questions for Brent Venables
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