Tuesdays with Brent Venables

CLEMSON - By nature, Brent Venables prefers to evaluate the negative before taking an in-depth look at the positive.

When asked to evaluate the play of Stephone Anthony through the first tin two games of the season, Venables began with the bad from Saturday's game against Ball State.

"We missed a big tackle. [Anthony] had the guy in the backfield. It should have been a tackle for loss, a nice fill on his behalf," Venables said. "The long run was him and another guy. Again, just a young guy out there making a mistake. Other than that, I've been really, really pleased."

Anthony, who's one of five Clemson defenders to play 100 snaps through the first two games, leads the team with 17 tackles.

"He's really maturing. That maturation process is different for everybody. To me, the light's gone on for him," Venables said. "He's more and more comfortable everyday with what we're doing. He looks like he's playing with sureness."

Much is to be expected from the former five-star linebacker prospect.

"He's got great desire to be a great player and a willingness to work for it," Venables said. "He doesn't have an over-inflated opinion of his ability and where he's at. Very easy to coach and he's his own worst critic. He's got a lot of intangibles that the ‘it guy' has.

"He's got a high level of talent and ability, as well. He just needs to continue to play. There will be failures along the way, but he's one of those guys that will learn from it and improve from it."

CURING THE ILLNESS: The Clemson run defense is 98th in the country and is giving up an average of 216 yards per game. Auburn had 180 and Ball State rolled up 252.

"You can't let people run the ball at five or six yards a clip and think that we're going to be any good. It just doesn't work that way," Venables said. "You're playing behind the chains. You can't be as aggressive. There are no magical calls."

According to Venables, blitzing doesn't cure all ills, especially when trying to slow down the run.

"You don't blitz the run game until you can stop the run game out of base. That's how you go after your defense, at least that's how we're going to," he said. "We're not going to feel like we've got to run an all-out blitz to stop the zone play. The zone play is not a trick play."

Venables added, "You can run all kinds of slants and blitzes, you can smoke them -- there'd be all kinds of lost yardage, but that's not how you're going to get better as a football team and to build our defense.

"The best defenses around control the line of scrimmage with four and you play physical with your front seven. You can play coverage, you can pressure -- you've got all kinds of flexibility. We've got to get good at the foundation of our defense and with our base, before we can do anything from there."

SAMMY'S RETURN: Even Venables couldn't dodge a question about the return of Sammy Watkins.

"I'm happy as hell," Venables said. "Are you kidding me?

"Hopefully, I have a little bit of time and I can go watch him play, like everybody else that pays for a ticket to watch him."

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