Clemson University

Venables’ latest work in the lab pays off for Clemson against Aggies

What Brent Venables said after Clemson win over Texas A&M

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables speaks after the Tigers win over Texas A&M on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019.
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Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables speaks after the Tigers win over Texas A&M on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019.

During preparation for a game last season, the entire Clemson football team and coaching staff took part in a meditation session with sports psychologist Dr. Milt Lowder.

Well, everyone except defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who head coach Dabo Swinney said was seen in a photo drawing up ball plays to stop the next opponent.

A mad scientist doesn’t have time for frivolous things, and based on his most recent work in the lab, there’s no reason to halt his process.

Against Texas A&M on Saturday, the meticulous Venables drew up a scheme that flustered, frustrated and flogged an Aggies offense that took Clemson to the brink of defeat a season ago.

Quarterback Kellen Mond was hit early and often and held to nearly 200 less passing yards than the previous meeting as the No. 1 Tigers (2-0) rolled to a 24-10 victory.

“I go against (Venables) every day. I know the passion and the football I.Q. that he has,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “He’s going to work extremely hard to put together a plan to help his young men be successful. He’s the best in the country at what he does.”

For three quarters, Clemson held Jimbo Fisher’s offense to 144 total yards and out of the end zone. A 145-yard fourth quarter and a touchdown pass with 6 seconds to play were the only things that kept it from being a flawless performance.

“We mixed it up with our coverage,” Swinney said. “We showed a lot of coverage at times to make (Mond) hold the ball. Then we got after him too.”

Clemson came into Week 2 with a lot of questions on that side of the ball. Six of the front seven are new, and the secondary gave up too many big plays at College Station, Texas, a year ago.

So Venables showed many different looks, including a package anchored by one of the best linebackers in the nation and a hybrid defender.

Junior Isaiah Simmons, who normally plays close to the line but will also cover in space, essentially lined up as a third safety in Clemson’s dime package. That allowed Venables to get Denzel Johnson or Nolan Turner on the field with starters K’Von Wallace and Tanner Muse in what was basically a four-safety look with a lot of speed.

With Simmons helping out on the back end, it freed up Muse and Wallace, who led all Tigers with nine tackles, to make plays all over the field.

That package helped confuse Mond and kept him from hurting the Tigers with his scrambling ability. The Aggies converted 27 percent of their third downs, and Clemson was able to do all that without sacrificing their run defense. Texas A&M averaged just 2 yards per carry.

“I think we had a great plan,” Muse said. “We put some of the best players out on the field at the same time, which I think was awesome. It really paid off.”

Venables, who said dime packages are a staple of his defense, downplayed his strategy a bit after the game, but he did add that he’s always tweaking it with wrinkles and disguises.

“These schemes are no good if your fundamentals and techniques stink,” Venables said. “You’ve got to be able to play under stress with those fundamentals.”


Who: Clemson at Syracuse

When: 7:30 pm Saturday

Where: Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York


Line: Clemson by 27.5