Clemson defense wants to avoid shootout

January, 1, 2014
Jan 1
9:00
AM ET
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – With two star quarterbacks leading two high-powered offenses headed into the Discover Orange Bowl, some expect a shootout Friday night.

Wait.

Shhhh.

Don’t say that in front of Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables. Shootouts are as unwanted as mosquitoes in summer, and Venables got a little feisty during a press conference when asked about the prospect of getting involved in a scoring free for all to close the season.

“I don't like that one bit,” Venables said. “It doesn't matter if it's Ohio State, if it's the Pittsburgh Steelers, it doesn't matter. Your job on defense is to stop people.

[+] EnlargeVic Beasley
Jerome Davis/Icon SMIClemson's offense gets most of the press, but its defense, led by DE Vic Beasley, hasn't been too shabby either.
“Everybody wants to say it's a shootout. You take offense to that. We know we have a great challenge on Friday night, but we're not playing it on defense like let's just get one more stop than them. That's not how we operate, no matter who we're playing.”

After linebacker Spencer Shuey got off the podium, he joked, “I felt like we were at practice for a second.”

You understand why defensive coaches get, well, defensive, at the suggestion. As defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said, “I know we're a lot better than people give us credit for. It's in the numbers. People see Clemson as a high-powered offensive team and they just want to outscore everybody, but we've done our part. We're just trying to get better.”

There is little doubt Clemson has gotten better since the last time it played in Miami, the scene of a 70-33 debacle to close the 2011 season that led to the firing of defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. Clemson shelled out top dollar to hire Venables from Oklahoma, hoping his disciplined, aggressive style would bring respectability and then dominance.

The transformation is not complete, but steps have been made this season. Clemson ranks No. 22 in the nation in total defense, 55 spots higher than the 2011 season; No. 17 in scoring defense, 64 spots higher than 2011; and No. 8 in third-down conversion defense, 65 spots higher than 2011.

In addition, Clemson ranks No. 2 in the nation in three-and-outs and leads the nation with 112 tackles for loss. Clemson needs eight more to set the new single-season school record.

“From the player aspect, the maturity level has grown tremendously,” Shuey said. “Coach Venables has brought an unbelievable amount of trust to us and to be able to trust each other and prepare every day with what it takes. I feel like it's a different team.”

Defensive end Vic Beasley has been the standout, racking up 19 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, finding his spot on several All-America teams. He received a second-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board and is still pondering whether he will leave school early or turn pro.

His coaches believe he could use an extra year in school to grow bigger, stronger and more dominant than he is now. One of the most intriguing matchups in the game features Beasley against Ohio State All-America tackle Jack Mewhort, who said Beasley is “more unique” than any defensive end he has faced in the Big Ten.

“He can run around you, or if he chooses to, he can take it right to you or take an inside move. He's got a three-way go,” Mewhort said. “He's got a good motor. He's very good with his hands.

“If you're not prepared for him, he'll get the best of you. So that's what I'm working on right now, just on his inside move, right through me, and going around me. If I can prepare for those three moves, I should be all right.”

The Clemson defense has faced tough quarterbacks throughout the entire season, from Aaron Murray to Jameis Winston to Connor Shaw, with mixed results. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller presents a tough challenge because he is so dynamic. Jarrett said Miller is “probably the fastest quarterback I’ve ever seen.”

His unique abilities will put stress on the entire Clemson defense to limit big plays. Running back Carlos Hyde gives the Ohio State offense even more firepower, and probably finds himself on Clemson bulletin boards this morning after declaring he wanted to set the Orange Bowl rushing record during interviews Tuesday.

Just add Hyde's quote to the pile that has contributed to the motivation the Clemson defense has used all season. Perhaps a different s-word -- a shutdown performance -- will get them some of the respect they believe they deserve.
Don’t say that in front of Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables. Shootouts are as unwanted as mosquitoes in summer, and Venables got a little feisty during a press conference when asked about the prospect of getting involved in a scoring free for all to close the season.

[+] EnlargeVic Beasley
Jerome Davis/Icon SMIClemson's offense gets most of the press, but its defense, led by DE Vic Beasley, hasn't been too shabby either.
“I don't like that one bit,” Venables said. “It doesn't matter if it's Ohio State, if it's the Pittsburgh Steelers, it doesn't matter. Your job on defense is to stop people.

“Everybody wants to say it's a shootout. You take offense to that. We know we have a great challenge on Friday night, but we're not playing it on defense like let's just get one more stop than them. That's not how we operate, no matter who we're playing.”

After linebacker Spencer Shuey got off the podium, he joked, “I felt like we were at practice for a second.”

You understand why defensive coaches get, well, defensive, at the suggestion. As defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said, “I know we're a lot better than people give us credit for. It's in the numbers. People see Clemson as a high-powered offensive team and they just want to outscore everybody, but we've done our part. We're just trying to get better.”

There is little doubt Clemson has gotten better since the last time it played in Miami, the scene of a 70-33 debacle to close the 2011 season that led to the firing of defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. Clemson shelled out top dollar to hire Venables from Oklahoma, hoping his disciplined, aggressive style would bring respectability and then dominance.

The transformation is not complete, but steps have been made this season. Clemson ranks No. 22 in the nation in total defense, 55 spots higher than the 2011 season; No. 17 in scoring defense, 64 spots higher than 2011; and No. 8 in third-down conversion defense, 65 spots higher than 2011.

In addition, Clemson ranks No. 2 in the nation in three-and-outs and leads the nation with 112 tackles for loss. Clemson needs eight more to set the new single-season school record.

“From the player aspect, the maturity level has grown tremendously,” Shuey said. “Coach Venables has brought an unbelievable amount of trust to us and to be able to trust each other and prepare every day with what it takes. I feel like it's a different team.”

Defensive end Vic Beasley has been the standout, racking up 19 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, finding his spot on several All-America teams. He received a second-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board and is still pondering whether he will leave school early or turn pro.

His coaches believe he could use an extra year in school to grow bigger, stronger and more dominant than he is now. One of the most intriguing matchups in the game features Beasley against Ohio State All-America tackle Jack Mewhort, who said Beasley is “more unique” than any defensive end he has faced in the Big Ten.

“He can run around you, or if he chooses to, he can take it right to you or take an inside move. He's got a three-way go,” Mewhort said. “He's got a good motor. He's very good with his hands.

“If you're not prepared for him, he'll get the best of you. So that's what I'm working on right now, just on his inside move, right through me, and going around me. If I can prepare for those three moves, I should be all right.”

The Clemson defense has faced tough quarterbacks throughout the entire season, from Aaron Murray to Jameis Winston to Connor Shaw, with mixed results. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller presents a tough challenge because he is so dynamic. Jarrett said Miller is “probably the fastest quarterback I’ve ever seen.”

His unique abilities will put stress on the entire Clemson defense to limit big plays. Running back Carlos Hyde gives the Ohio State offense even more firepower, and probably finds himself on Clemson bulletin boards this morning after declaring he wanted to set the Orange Bowl rushing record during interviews Tuesday.

Just add Hyde's quote to the pile that has contributed to the motivation the Clemson defense has used all season. Perhaps a different s-word -- a shutdown performance -- will get them some of the respect they believe they deserve.

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