Tuesdays with Brent Venables

CLEMSON - Four days from the season opener against No. 25 Auburn, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables still has questions.

That sort of comes with the territory when opening up against an opponent with a brand new coordinator who runs a scheme that's largely different from his predecessor's.

Venables will face an Auburn team that operated a hurry-up, no-huddle system for three seasons under Gus Malzahn. Now, with Scot Loeffler at the helm, the Tigers are likely to mix in more pro-style principles.

But there still could be some elements from Malzahn's spread.

Either way, there are enough unknowns to make Venables squirm; even though he's had an entire summer to estimate what he'll see in the Georgia Dome.

"There's a lot to look at and prepare for. That first game, there's unknown," Venables said. "It's hard to identify the exact DNA, whether it's of a play-caller, situations, how they're going to utilize their own personnel. You just don't quite know yet.

"The same could be said, probably, about us. As excited as you are about playing a team like Auburn on the venue that we're playing, you'd rather open with 1-AA, to kind of find out what you're made of. The same time, the flip side of it is they're probably thinking the exact same thing."

The formula to figure out what exactly Loeffler will do on Saturday is inexact.

"Consistency, the things that travel, whether it's different stops or game to game, the things that are always there that show," Venables said. "You kind of build it from there, situations to personnel to plays, all those things combined."

Loeffler has coached a number of talented quarterbacks during his career, including Tom Brady.
Loeffler's worked as the quarterbacks coach for Central Michigan, Michigan, the Detroit Lions and Florida. In 2011, he was the offensive coordinator at Temple.

The way Venables described Loeffler's offense at Temple, it sounds like Auburn's new offensive coordinator could incorporate various elements from each his previous gigs.

"Physical, tough, very well coached, downhill, move the pocket, better players than what you would think. You know that's not all coach speak, because we're not playing Temple," Venables said.

EITHER OR: Of the 11 positions on the Clemson defensive depth chart, seven are listed with co-starters.

Grady Jarrett or Josh Watson at nose guard. DeShawn Williams or Watson at defensive tackle.

Corey Crawford or Victor Beasley at defensive end.

Quandon Christian or Travis Blanks at strong-side linebacker/nickel back. Jonathan Willard or Corico Hawkins at weak-side linebacker.

Jonathan Meeks or Rashard Hall at strong safety. Hall or Xavier Brewer at free safety.

"Those people haven't necessarily separated themselves from one another -- it can be a good thing," Venables said. "Guys are either both really pretty good or maybe there hasn't been as much separation as we want. Maybe somebody is a little bit better, but the other guy can play winning football.

"Some of it, maybe one guy was really good this week and not so good, then it flipped the other [way] the next week in scrimmages."

At the end of the day, the ‘starter' may not even play a majority of the snaps.

"It'll all shake out in the end," Venables said. "If there's an ‘or' by it that means you'll probably see him at some point, sooner rather than later."

AUBURN'S PERSONNEL: Earlier this week, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik named Kiehl Frazier his starter at quarterback.

Venables is very familiar with the 6-foot-2, 226-pound sophomore signal caller.

"He's a big, strong, athletic, highly-recruited, talented guy. He's got a big arm. I think it goes without saying, they featured him in more of a quarterback run system last year," Venables said. "I'm very aware of Frazier just coming out of high school. Being out of Arkansas, just a state away at Oklahoma, they had recruited him."

Clemson's first-year coordinator expects a "heavy dose" of runs by Frazier and the Auburn running backs.

"They've got some terrific skill guys to surround [Frazier] with at both receiver and tight end. They've got a group of weapons to surround him and a very, very highly talented offensive line as well," Venables said.

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