Venables, defense in midseason form

CLEMSON - Defensive coordinator Brent Venables sounded like he was in mid-season form while talking to the media after Wednesday's spring practice.


When Clemson produced the No. 1 defense in the country a season ago, it answered a lot of questions around these parts.

For starters, it showed Clemson can run an uptempo/no-huddle offense and still have an elite level defense. More times than not, when a team wants to wear down the opposition by running 80-plus plays a game discovers it puts too much pressure on its defense in the process.

It also demonstrated the Tigers can win in multiple ways as well.

Instead of outscoring teams in high-powered shootouts like it did in 2011, '12 and '13, the Tigers won physical slugfests more reminiscent of the Danny Ford era.

And of course, the Tigers' defensive performance a season ago proved the man coordinating it all - Brent Venables - was worth every penny of the $1.35 million contract he signed during the offseason.

"Between Coach Swinney, Dan Radakovich, President Clements and The Board, I couldn't be more appreciative, thankful, humble and pinching myself," he said when asked about his new contract. "It's such a great group of guys that I work with. It takes a group of us do this. But for them to show that kind of loyalty and appreciation and investment - this is as good as it gets.

"Everything you could possibly want you have it here."

Venables directed the country's No. 1 defense in yards allowed in 2014, giving up slightly more than 260 per game. The Tigers finished 10-3, their fourth straight season with double-digit victories.

This fall, of course, the task will be slightly more difficult with six starters gone from last year's unit. Gone is the all-time leading sackmaster in Clemson history in Vic Beasley. Gone is the anchor in the middle in Grady Jarrett and the star linebacker in Stephone Anthony.

Deshawn Williams, Josh Watson and Cory Crawford have also moved on.

While several familiar names will replace these starters, Venables says it's business as usual for his group.

"I think we've proven that we can handle ourselves against some of the best teams in the country - and I'm not just talking about last year. We've had our opportunities. When we've been on the biggest stages - we've matched up with the SEC. We've put the ball on the field and spotted it against teams like LSU and Ohio State.

"We've more than responded and answered the critics. We've been the underdog and have showed they belong."

D.J. Reader certainly has bought in to Venables' claim.

A reserve defensive tackle from last year's squad, Reader told reporters this week he anticipates no drop off whatsoever.

"I don't think it changes at all," he said. "We've learned so much from those guys it's just next man up. That's our philosophy. It's next man up. There's a lot of motivation for us to keep it going and that's what we plan on doing."

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