Looking ahead

CLEMSON - Brent Venables saw progress from his defense this spring, but there's plenty left to accomplish before the September showdown with Auburn.

"We've got a lot of work to continue to do, improvement across the board, at each position, in every phase," he said. "I guarantee you we'll get there in time, because our guys are working. They want to be good."

First things first, make sure this summer is a good one.

"If our guys invest in the summer and put for the work that they did in the spring during the course of the summer, we're going to have the opportunity to be a good football team and a good defense," Venables said. "If they don't, we won't. Getting our guys to create a standard and chemistry together is important as well this summer.

"It's something, as coaches, we've got to help foster and develop."

Despite the influx of youth, the Tiger's first-year defensive coordinator said the unit made strides this spring.

"We've got a lot of youth at some positions, but I'm pleased with where they've risen above their lack of experience, and shown that they can play and help us," Venables said.

And there's no younger position group among Clemson defenders than the defensive line.

"I thought the guys were active, playing with good technique. Dan [Brooks] does a good job of coaching those guys," Venables said. "There are some good, young guys. They've got suddenness, quickness, decent explosiveness and the ability to use their hands."

He's still looking for see some leaders emerge at every position, not just the line.

"That'll be determined through how hard they work. There are some guys that are in the natural position," Venables said.

Malliciah Goodman, Rashard Hall, Jonathan Meeks, Xavier Brewer, Corico Hawkins, Jonathan Willard and Quandon Christian were listed by Venables because "those are guys that have played a lot of football" and "been around here a long time."

Last season, the Clemson defense was 71st in the country in total defense [394.4 yards] and 81st in scoring defense [29.3 points]. Poor tackling was one of the contributing factors to the Tigers' struggles.

"Tackling is attitude. Tackling is position. Tackling is discipline," Venables said. "Obviously, it's fundamentals, but it's attitude and discipline and knowing where your help is, not having bad eyes, staying square -- all those things."

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