It will be a battle of wills Saturday afternoon at Bobby-Dodd Stadium in Atlanta.
On one hand, you have the nation's No. 2 ranked total defense in the Clemson Tigers. On the other, you have the nation's No. 2 run offense in Georgia Tech.
The Tigers will have the luxury of leaning on defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who has never lost to the Yellow Jackets in his Clemson career, but he's also never faced Tech in Atlanta. In addition, Clemson hasn't won at Grant Field since 2003.
Clemson's third-year coordinator sat down with the media Tuesday to preview the huge challenge that awaits for his unit Saturday afternoon... here's part of that conversation:
After last year’s game I heard you say “thank goodness that’s over,” does that sort of define this week?
Venables: It’s incredibly stressful, mentally and physically. There’s not a lot of margin for error. They really take advantage of any mistakes you make fundamentally. Alignment with the eyes, how you’re supporting the run, with the secondary, or if you’re a little late reacting—they take advantage of you. They are very methodical in their approach. A lot of teams get bored with doing the basic fundamental things over and over, they get a little bit anxious and the wheels start falling off.
I’m assuming that that’s a credit to them?
Venables: Yeah, it’s a great system and they’ve got good players executing it. They’re throwing it outside. Their quarterback makes a big difference for them. Their line is a little bit better than what they were a year ago. Their quarterback is an instinctual decision maker, he’s got speed and explosiveness, so it’s a great combination for them. It’ll be a great challenge for us.
How confident are you that Grady and the other guys in the middle of the defensive line can control their area?
Venables: I’m confident that they’re going to do it, and I’m confident that they’re going to work at preparing themselves to do it. That’s why you play. You’re going to have to do it snap after snap after snap. You’re going to get your nose bloody, that’s just part of the gig. I’m confident in our guys’ respect for the game, respect for the opponent, and respect for the job that they have to do. They recognize that this is the biggest challenge they’ve had up to this point.
Is there any less of a burden on preparation this year because you have experienced guys?
Venables: There’s some truth to that, but you still have to go practice the fundamentals that it takes. They know this isn’t their first rodeo, so to speak, but they have to have that desperation to do their job. The older, mature guys recognize why you have to have that urgency.
Do you do major tweaks each year that you face these guys or is this the defense pretty much the same?
Venables: There are certain things you have to carry. You have to continue to evolve and ways to improve. You have to think how they think. They aren’t just going to run their head into the wall. If something isn’t working, they’re going to fix it and to attack in different ways.
Venables gears up for another stiff test
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