Tuesdays with Brent Venables

CLEMSON - Defensive coordinator Brent Venables looks ahead to Saturday night's showdown with No. 4 Florida State.

Are there advantages that you've seen this team the past two years, as opposed to just studying them off of film? Do you think that helps you at all in getting ready for this offense?
Venables: I think it's just affirmation that they're a talented team, a lot of experience. Coach [Jimbo] Fisher does a good job of calling plays and putting them into position to be successful. You have that kind of familiarity with them. It's certainly better than not knowing anything, that's for sure. Having been at the venue, down there last year, it will be the same type of setting. It'll be a fantastic atmosphere, a very intense atmosphere. A lot will be on the line and at stake, so that's exciting, the challenge of it, and thinking about it. A lot of coaches and players coach and play in this profession and don't have the opportunity to be on that kind of a stage. It's very, very exciting.

These guys can option you, can spread it out with elite athletes, that just really adds to the challenge.
Venables: Yeah. When you recruit players, you try to recruit the biggest, strongest and fastest at every position. They've got them all. They've got a monopoly on them, well, most of them. That means the margin for error is very low when you play an opponent like Florida State.

How confident are you now, a few days into your preparation?
Venables: We'll see. Every game presents its own challenges. It's unique to itself. I think our guys recognize the things we need to improve at, in their particular positions or overall as a unit. Again, every week is different. You like to see progress in the areas that we need to make progress. The biggest thing is the explosive plays. You're trying to piece things together and improve on all the little things, explosive plays set you back. I think that's one of the key factors when you play a game with who has the most explosive plays, so forth and so on. Sometimes, you can lose that battle against a lesser opponent and still win the game, and still win the game handily. Against an evenly matched team, it's going to be a huge deciding factor.

How confident? Again, we'll see. I'm excited about seeing our guys put in the work this week and coaches putting them in position to be successful, and going down there to execute.

Talk about their option game.
Venables: In this day and age of the spread offense, to have some style of option involved with your offense. That is one more challenge that they present…you watch them on tape and they're pretty good. We're going to have to play really, really well on Saturday night. They've got a lot of issues that they present you with -- their ability to throw it, their ability to get on top of you, to take a handoff in the a-gap and go 70. They've got a great, great stable of weapons.

What are your thoughts on E.J. Manuel as a passer?
Venables: He's good. He's gotten better each year. This will be the third year that [I've] faced him. He's got a big arm, throws with great velocity and can throw it forever. He can throw the short and intermediate balls with great accuracy. They do a good job in their play-action game, protecting things up and getting guys off with a double move [and] get you to have bad eyes and a lack of discipline, to get over the top of you, as well.

This will probably be the first time you will face a quarterback here that will try to beat you with his feet. That's part of the reason why you're here. Do you do anything different to tweak your scheme?
Venables: There are probably moments over the course of the game that you're doing certain things that way. You've got to maintain good rush lanes. The thing about a guy like him, a guy like Vince Young or Jake Locker -- sometimes the worst thing you can is cover everybody and they pull it down and make big plays that way. I don't think we'll have any problem with that.

That's a big weapon for them. I think they're smart. He's well-schooled and mature enough to understand when it's not there, to not force it and utilize those strengths.

Why hasn't Rashard Hall played as much as he did in his first three years?
Venables: I don't know what he did or didn't do in his first three years. Brewer kind of earned his way by being more consistent in what we've asked him to do. Rashard has played more and more each week. The proverbial rust is knocking off. He hasn't played in quite a while. It's one thing to have your head in the playbook and watching film. You've got to go out and actually do it.

Brewer's had three months of work, drill work and practice. He's been better than Rashard. Why? He's been a little bit better and more consistent.

Do you expect him to play more?
Venables: I've seen a trend where he's playing more and more, and we're finding ways we've got to get him more involved.

Is their run-game improvement a function of Manuel and Chris Thompson being healthy? Or are they doing different things?
Venables: I think they've been productive when they've been healthy. I think that goes without saying. I think they're blocking better, probably with some better players. They've continued to improve in their recruiting and development. It just doesn't happen overnight…they're successful throwing the ball, as well. Their run and pass combination is enabling both sides to have higher execution and better results.

Can you differentiate what you've seen out of their receivers?
Venables: Their explosive, their fast, they catch the ball well. They know how to get open. They do a great job of attacking you. They're very aggressive in their approach. They're not going to nickel and dime in the throwing operation, like you see other teams have in this day and age. They're going to, early and often, try to go over the top.

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