Steward progressing

CLEMSON - Brent Venables doesn't like to rush into things. In fact, Clemson's first-year defensive coordinator appreciates the process of segueing into pads.

Preseason camp began on Friday then continued on Saturday. After taking Sunday off, they'll get back to work Monday. Full pads won't be put on until Wednesday.

The players may be ready to start hitting, but Venables isn't.

"Our guys are anxious," he said. "You've got to crawl, then walk, then you can start jogging, then you can run and you can sprint. I kind of like that process. We'll get there.

"We'll bang on each other enough before we play Auburn. I know they're anxious. That'll be fun, when that day comes, and it'll be coming up pretty quick."

The first two days on the practice fields have been productive outings.

"Our guys are excited -- great energy, great enthusiasm. Our guys, you can see they're hungry to practice and hungry to compete," Venables said. "We've got really good leadership -- lot of carryover from the spring."

Steward played 36 snaps before tearing his ACL in practice last season.
RETURNING FROM ACL SURGERY: Tony Steward spent the spring watching from the sidelines. The sophomore linebacker was recovering from ACL surgery while his teammates learned Venables' system on the field.

"These last two days were his first two practices in this system. He's been in great position on the football," Venables said. "He knows what he's doing. He's not lost. So I've been happy for him. He looks like he's feeling confident and moving with confidence."

Venables wouldn't go too far with his medical opinion.

"I don't know what 100 percent looks like for him," he said.

But, to Venables, Steward appears to be fine.

"He's moving real well," Venables said. "He shows that he has a good, solid understanding of what his responsibilities are, what his alignments are, what his keys are. I've been pleased. He made me feel like that when he wasn't practicing.

"But you just don't know until they do it. He's been able to get out there, hasn't been lost in two days."

ALSO AT WILL: Steward is competing for the starting weak-side linebacker job with seniors Jonathan Willard and Corico Wright.

The veterans exited spring practice as co-starters at the position. During the first 30 minutes of Friday's practice, Wright was spotted with the first-team.

"[Wright] understands the position and fits in with it well. He's really got a strong, mental grasp of it," Venables said. "I hope that it's a really strong battle between him and Tig. What I've seen up to this point in time, I feel comfortable with the two of them."

For Steward to make the starting job his, he has to take ownership of the spot.

"Just dominate, be the best guy. It's pretty simple," Venables said, when asked what Steward needed to do to win the job.

"I'm pulling for all of them. Through the course of once we start grading scrimmages and all those types of things, that's when we start massaging depth charts and figuring everything out."

BACK ON THE EDGE: Tavaris Barnes was recruited to Clemson as a defensive end. After his arrival, he was moved inside to defensive tackle.

Venables has moved Barnes back to end.

"I think he makes us better there, right now. He just gives us a little more athletic body, a guy that's got some experience," Venables said. "He's got some good quickness. He was a little bit undersized for defensive tackle."

THE NEW GUYS INSIDE: Carlos Watkins committed to Clemson with style. D.J. Reader announced his plans to sign on National Signing Day. Both are looking to make an impact on the interior rotation.

"They're two, big, strong athletic guys that I think, in time, have a chance to be solid players for us."

Watkins will play defensive tackle. Reader will play nose guard. Both are learning with each practice.

"They're learning a new language. They're learning, to a certain degree, some new techniques, learning the discipline about gap control, pad level, just putting their eyes in the right place," Venables said.

And what will it take for them to prove they're ready?

"Just how quickly they adapt to those things," Venables said. "They're two, big, strong athletic guys that I think, in time, have a chance to be solid players for us." Top Stories