Great expectations

SUNSET, S.C. - As he spoke at The Reserve, there was an extra bounce to his step, a certain inflection in his voice and a little twinkle in his eye.

Entering his second season as the Clemson defensive coordinator, Brent Venables feels pretty good about his linebackers. Actually, he feels better than pretty good.

"I love our linebackers. Their chemistry, they all like each other. They all like ball. They all like to work. You can coach them all hard," Venables said. "We've got a really good group of guys, six or seven of them there that you feel good about. It's quality depth."

He didn't stop there.

"I think we've got a combination of guys that can run, can strike, have instincts, are tough and can lead. We've got a good group of guys there," Venables said.

Despite losing Jonathan Willard, last year's leading tackler at Clemson, plus multi-year starter Corico Wright, the Tigers' linebacking corps remains strong and full of experience.

All three first-team spots are occupied by guys with starting experience. On the weak-side and in the middle, there's quality, three-deep depth.

When asked about his expectations for the 2013 linebackers during the Clemson media golf outing, Venables tossed out a few buzz words, "Leadership, consistency, toughness, coachability, understanding, making plays.

"I have a very high level of expectation for them, right now," he said. "I don't expect hiccups along the way. I think we'll be better there, just because of our experience, understanding, everything that you go through, your growth and maturation as players, everything that those guys went through a year ago.

"And what I saw this spring gives me every reason to be really happy with where we're at there."

Trust is a big deal to Venables. He wants his players, while they're on the field, to be an extension of him.

Venables said he can trust his starting linebackers because of their experience. Spencer Shuey and Stephone Anthony split time at MIKE last season and Quandon Christian has been a starter his entire career as the starting SAM.

Gurshall will certainly provide a challenging test.

"The [Georgia] running backs are All-World," Venables said. "They're as good as advertised."

We'll see on the last day of August if his guys are, too.

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