"He's a physical, disruptive guy when he shows up," Venables said last August, during preseason camp. "He's like a stick of dynamite going off. Bodies are flying everywhere."
Message boards erupted. Talk radio show callers could hardly contain themselves. Barstool prognosticators foresaw great things.
But there was one hitch to all of the excitement. Jones, an Oklahoma transfer, had to sit out the 2012 season.
Twelve months have gone by. Jones has paid his pittance to the NCAA. And he's eligible to play this fall.
When Venables spoke last month at the Dabo Swinney Media Golf Outing, he was a bit more cautious when talking about the redshirt sophomore from Houston.
"Here's what Kellen has shown me: he's an instinctive guy, loves to play [and] loves to compete. He's still growing and maturing in doing all of the little things to be a guy that you can trust," Venables said. "He'll definitely play if he has a good fall camp and does things the way I expect him to do."
Guarded comments aside, Venables is still very high on Jones.
"He's a good football player," Venables said. "He's learning how to be an every down player. That'll be his next hurdle. When he can do that, you'll see him out there a bunch.
"I think he'll definitely -- he's going to help us. He's a guy that learned a couple of different positions. Guy's that have instincts, they can play a couple of different positions."
Venables added, "I love his energy that he brings. He's just got to do it in a disciplined way."
Chad Morris says Tajh Boyd will never be the perfect quarterback.
Room for growthEven with all of the school passing records, Player of the Year Awards, All-American honors and preseason Heisman hype, Tajh Boyd still has room to grow.
Chad Morris said that will be the case, no matter how successful Boyd is this season and beyond.
"I think you can always improve your footwork, always. If Tajh was coming back next year or the year after, I'd say the same thing. He can always improve in his footwork," Morris said. "He can always improve in his coverage recognition, his blitz recognition. Those are things you can never master."
Even the best, according to Morris, don't master the quarterback position.
"It can't be done," he said. "And if you think you've mastered it, you better look out, because you're fixing to hit rock bottom. I think that's at any level.
"You can ask Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Drew Brees [and] Tom Brady. They would say the same thing. You never master the position."
Y'all are the weakest linkDan Brooks and Marion Hobby have encouraged their guys to remember the not so encouraging words Swinney had for the defensive line before last season.
Swinney called the defensive line the weak link on the Clemson defense.
"I think it lit a fire under some of the guys and made them play," Hobby said. "I just smiled, because I was like, I sure hope you tell them that, because I want them to feel that, too.
"Don't be the weak link, basically. Everybody else is supporting you. We don't want to do that, not at our position. We want to dictate the game. We want to dictate how the defense plays."
And through the course of the 2012 season, the play by Clemson's young defensive line improved. With all but one player from last year's two-deep back, Brooks wants them to keep Swinney's message in mind.
"If you can keep that mentality, that grain of sand keeps rubbing you a little bit, that's what you want to do. That's what I've seen in the weight room and spring practice," Brooks said. "Hopefully, we'll see that in the preparation for the first game."