Clemson enters Saturday's game at Boston College ranked sixth in the country in total defense, yielding just 286 yards per game. The Tigers are also 11th in run defense and 17th in passing yards allowed at the halfway point of the 2014 season.
Boston College head coach Steve Addazio has certainly taken notice, claiming earlier this week this Clemson defense is the best he's seen since the 2009 Alabama Crimson Tide.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables response?
"I think he’s trying to set us up," he told reporters yesterday. "It’s nice of him to say nice things, but keep your enemies closer. We’re kind of developing an identity."
So far that identity seems to be working fairly well. The stats supporting Addazio's claim are undeniable and more importantly, the film doesn't lie. Clemson's front seven has been playing at an extremely high level, and despite a few busts on the back end, the secondary has shown considerable improvement too.
Here's more of what Venables had to say in his normal Tuesday meeting with the media:
Coach Addazio was really complimentary of your defense yesterday, saying it was the best group he’s seen since 2009 Alabama. Do you think this group is that special?
Venables: I think he’s trying to set us up. It’s nice of him to say nice things, but keep your enemies closer. We’re kind of developing an identity. We’ve made some improvement since the beginning of the year. I really like the chemistry we are developing. We are playing with a little bit more consistency, but there are still plenty of things we can continue to get better. W happened to play well at the right times that allow us to overcome some of the mistakes we’ve made. Whether it’s fixing some of the run game or throw back a wheel-route for 40 yards. The missed opportunities they had on some deep shots, we have to be in a better position. We are playing with great effort and playing well on 3rd downs. We have to continue to correct mistakes, improve, and learn from our mistakes.
Obviously, stay healthy and have some things from a luck standpoint. I’m not taking anything away from them, but sometimes you have to be lucky too. I love the attitude of our guys; the defense is about being physical and tough-minded. They’re guys that love to play and they play with intensity. Hopefully we’ll continue to play well. We need have a road-dog kind of mentality. We have to be very determined; it’s going to be a tough physical game. We’ve got a great challenge with their quarterback. He’s one of the top ten rushers in the country. They don’t just run the ice, they get into a bunch of different formations. We’ll have our hands full.
They have five offensive linemen who are graduate students. That has to be an advantage?
They are mature, grown men who are probably ready for the moment. They’re going to be looking forward to the challenge. He’s certainly built us up to his own guys I’m sure, so they won’t be overwhelmed for the moment.
With Tyler Murphy playing his first season, how much tape are you watching right now?
Venables: Obviously, you want to see what they’re doing, and the things they’re doing now, they’re doing really well. We have a little background and understanding. He’s a feature guy and everything goes through him, so what they’ve been doing, they’ve been doing really well.
Overall from a statistical standpoint, what were the deciding factors of last Saturday’s game?
Venables: It’s really all three levels complementing each other. There was no true quote on quote “weak link.” We had guys up front who were physical, tough, very well coached from the fundamental technique standpoint, they weren’t trying to do much, they were disciplined. In secondary, we had guys with good length and good cover skills. They’ve been playing with great effort and I think that covers of for some of the deficiencies we have and some of our weaknesses. These guys (Boston College) are playing hard and they’re confident, and they play in a real aggressive manner. Our guys have been consistent and practicing really good, and they’re confident in what they’re doing. I think all those things combined usually get a good result. You got guys like T.J. Green and Jadar Johnson coming off the bench and coming into the game and playing really well. T.J. didn’t have a whole bunch of snaps, but he went in there and you immediately saw he was confident in call, in his eyes and his alignment, and in what he was supposed to do. He just stoned him and that as a coach is what you want see from a growth standpoint. Before we have special teams meeting on Sunday morning, he’s in there watching a little extra tape. That’s very encouraging as far as the growth in a young guy that’s hungry.
I love that Ben Boulware played at such a level that he did. It’s a great teaching moment for our guys in seizing the opportunity. When the window opens, you have to be ready. You don’t have time to get ready, you have to be ready. He’s a guy that’s consistently invested and has been tugging on my shirt. I want guys that show me that they care. All coaches do. If you’re body language or attitude shows you don’t care, then when we compartmentalize, we just say “okay, we’ll get to that guy in spring ball,” and you go on, but that’s what coaches do. That’s what you want, and you’re going to find an opportunity to make for a guy like Ben Boulware. He seized the moment and played at a high level. He did his job and played with high energy, motion, and intensity. He’s physically tough, played super fast, and made a big difference in that game. It’s a great teaching moment for all our guys who don’t want to fight for something, but T.J., Ben, Jadar, and couple of other guys get in there and seize the moment.