Brent Venables Weighs in on Wofford

Clemson Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables met with the media on Tuesday to discuss the season opener against Wofford and defending the triple-option.

Q:  What are the challenges preparing for an offense like Wofford runs?

BV:  “It presents a different set of challenges than a normal spread offense. Some principles are the same. You want your guys to play disciplined, physical and sound in everything you do regardless of the scheme, but this one requires a little bit stricter demands that way. I think playing Georgia Tech down the road, this game will give us some carry over. The head coach is very involved offensively—it’s kind of his M.O.—so they’ve got answers to big, fast guys. They’re really gonna challenge all of our guys—particularly our young guys—to try not to do too much and do their job for 60 minutes. It’s exciting, though, because of that challenge.”


Q:  How are they different from Georgia Tech?

BV:  “Georgia Tech’s under center really all of the game. These guys get in the gun as well as underneath. So you’ll see some similarities, some differences, but the end result is the same. Probably throwing the ball a little bit more and in some ways more conventional than Georgia Tech. “


Q:  How would you describe Wofford’s QB?

BV:  “Well they’ve got four of them. They haven’t named their starter yet. But they’re all good athletes, good quickness, good speed, good understanding of what they do, nifty with the ball—faking you out—and good managers of the game. They’re all about the same.”


Q:  You weren’t here 4 years ago the last time Clemson played Wofford. How much stock do you put in how close that game was?

BV:  “Well I heard all about it as soon as I got here. I asked why we play them. We don’t have to. Why do we play them? I have about 3 or 4 ideas of other teams to play if anyone’s interested, but no one’s yet to ask me. But I’ve been warned. I understand why after watching them. They really take advantage of mistakes you make and force you to play with great precision and discipline for 60 minutes, by nature of what they do. But it’s an exciting challenge.”


Q:  Do you feel good about your players being prepared for cut blocks?

BV:  “Yeah, we work cut blocks every single day—not just this week. Fundamentally, it’s something we do a lot of. Obviously, when you play an option team, they put themselves in an advantageous position to cut block you. Their backs do a really good job of running full speed at you. So it’s a different tempo than what a lot of traditional teams do. But it’s a critical part of our success defensively. If we’re not on our feet, we can’t defend them very well. So starting inside-out, it’s a big part of this game.”

Q:  Whenever you play an option team like this, do you have sort of a set speech that you use to talk to the defense about the cut blocking?

BV:  “Oh sure, that’s the first thing that we talked about—being able to stay on your feet defensively. Every down is a run down, and you’ve got to be able to stay on your feet—all 11 of us pursuing the football. If you’re not on your feet, you don’t have that pursuit. So that’s day-one motivation for our guys.”


Q:  How about trying to help the players overcome the mental aspect of having guys diving at their knees all the sudden?

BV:  “That’s what the psychologist is for. I’m not for that. You’ve gotta be fearless, you’ve gotta be physical. You can’t play on your heels in this game and be successful. You have to attack cut blocks like they’re attacking you. You have to attack them back in the same manner, with technique. You need to stay aggressive.”


Q:  Is Cordrea firmly in the starting spot?

BV:  “Across the board, you never feel great about where you’re at. You always want to be better. We’re never satisfied with where we’re at. You always wish that you had another week of fall camp to iron some things out and get some guys better, but that’s kind of what the season’s for. You’re hopeful that wherever you start, you finish heck of a lot better by the end of the year. I think he’s been pretty consistent, pretty solid. Not spectacular, but not far behind. I feel pretty good about all of those guys.”


Q:  Do you worry about missed assignments against this offense with so many young guys on the defense this season?

BV:  “It’s not real complicated as far as assignments. It’s more about technique. Consistency of technique. Having good eyes, good feet, good hand placement. Those kinds of things. Tackle the dive, play the trap, stay on your feet. Those kind of things.”


Q:  The crowd in Death Valley is usually an advantage for your defense, but when you play an offense like Wofford’s or Georgia Tech’s where it’s as much about concentration as it is adrenaline, is the noise less of an advantage?

BV:  “I think any time when you’ve got the home crowd screaming and yelling in someone’s ear, it can be good, but they’re only gonna scream and yell if you’re doing something well. So if we’re not playing very good, it’s gonna be pretty quiet in Death Valley. So be careful what you wish for. You’re hopeful that by the time we get to game time, our guys can tune everything out and just play the game. That’s what really good players do and good units do. They’re able to not allow any distractions. That will be a challenge.”


Q:  Are you concerned at all with putting Kendall Joseph out there with the time he’s missed.

BV:  “I’m not concerned with putting him out there. Just concerned with where he’s at. But he looked good the last couple days that he’s practiced. He’s an instinctive player and finds the ball. He’s not what we call a rep guy, who needs to see it eight times over. The training staff did a good job of keeping him in shape as well. So I think he’ll be fine.”


Q:  Where is Wilkins in his development?

BV:  “I think Christian is ready to play winning football. He’s going to have some growing pains. Whoever the three technique bell-cow in the NFL is, that’s not him yet, and it’s not fair to put him there. But Christian is ahead of the curve with his transition and development. But he’s got a ton to learn. He’ll make mistakes along the way, and he’ll improve and grow from those, based on what we’ve seen. And a year from now, he’s gonna have a ton of experience and a lot more functional strength. He was out of the weight room for almost 4 months before the summer. But we’re awfully excited about his continued progress, and where he’s at in the first game will be a lot different from where he’s at in game 9 and 10.”


Q:  Have you grown to appreciate Travis Blanks’s influence and impact on the defense?

BV:  “Travis is an incredible leader, very selfless, very coachable, great football intelligence, retains information, retains corrections—very uncanny, like the best I’ve been around in that way. He’s got a tremendous humility, which has been awesome on the football field and the meeting room, and it’s really helped our chemistry in our back seven. So I have great respect not only for what he’s gone through, but how he carries himself as a man, a teammate and a leader.”


Q:  Can you enlighten us on what kind of player Jalen Williams is?

BV:  “Jalen has very good instincts, good quickness, he’s a good tackler, he’s relentless chasing the football. He’s still a young player and will make some mistakes but has a great football intelligence and is really ahead of the curve that way. He’s hard to block. He doesn’t stay blocked when he does get blocked initially. He gets off blocks really well. So we’re excited about Jalen. He’s a guy that cares a great deal about his performance and his preparation. He’s not just excited about getting to the game. I’ve coached guys that want nothing to do with the preparation—they just want to get to the game. You can’t put the cart before the horse. But Jalen really values the preparation and detail that goes with playing at a high level. And for a young guy, that’s normally not the case. They don’t want to worry about all the details. The details are not important to them. But Jalen has shown that he’s an exception in that way. How he thinks.”


Q:  What stood out to you when you first saw Jalen Williams two years ago?

BV:  “Everything. Probably the number one thing was how competitive he was. His skill set was good. He moved well. He was sudden, he was quick, he was instinctive. But he was just very, very competitive. All the while he had a faceless look about him like he was very focused and determined. That set him apart from a lot of the guys he was competing with. And then he endured that effort through a couple of days. We invited him to come and didn’t know if he would, but he showed up, and that was a pleasant surprise. He was just going to come for one practice. We asked him if he’d stick around, gave him an extra change of drawers and he showed up for the next couple days and continued to compete. It reminds me of the story I hear about Grady Jarrett. That he was going to be in the front of the line and take every rep and just wear out people. Jalen was the same way. He just continued to impress the longer you were around him. That’s who he’s been since he’s been here. He’s got a real strong foundation in his passion and his want to chase the football, and he’s got good instincts and good quickness to him.”


Q:  How have you seen Goodson develop?

BV:  “Just his toughness from the first part of his career to where he is now. Enduring adversity and fighting through adversity. Competing with himself. Being a better leader. Competing with yourself is what the great ones do. They don’t care about who else is in the lineup—they just compete to be the best with intensity and relentlessness in everything they do like it’s the end of the world on this next play if I don’t perform at a high level. Just having that urgency about him is something we’re trying to get to, and I’m hopeful that we’re close to it. I’ve seen a lot of improvement in all those areas. He’s had a really good camp.  He’s always had good weight room strength and power. He’s a natural thumper. He strikes people. I think it’s just all those other things—hungry, tough, chip on the shoulder. All the adjectives you think of. ‘Swagger.’ I’m not a big ‘swagger’ guy. I like people that like to rip people’s faces off. I’ve seen too many people swagger without the play behind it. Beating their chest and making some basic, fundamental play that I can get a circus monkey to do. Anyway, that’s what you want to see from B.J. I love him making plays, competing at a high level and having an edge to him. I really believe that being behind Stephone, Spencer and Tony the mind set was that those guys were in front of him and rather than getting out of the back seat and climbing in the middle, he decided to stay in the back seat. But now it’s his time, and I have seen a change in him.” Top Stories