Brent Venables Q&A with SBN's Shakin the Southland

With the news last week of Brent Venables accepting the defensive coordinator's position at Clemson, we thought we'd utilize the powerful SB Nation resources and reach out to the Clemson site Shakin the Southland. They were gracious enough to answer some of our questions and we did same, so be sure to over to their quality site and check out our responses as we give them a little insight into their new defensive coordinator.

Here is our portion of the Q&A.

CCM - From browsing around some Clemson sites to get a sense of the fan's reaction, it seems to be a bit mixed between positive and skeptical. Are you getting the same sense from your readers/fellow Clemson fans?

StS - We definitely are getting the same sense. Many folks are excited to get a coach from an established and proven program like Oklahoma. This same coach was the co-Defensive Coordinator from the 2000 National Championship team and has been with Bob Stoops since he took the head position at OU. There is excitement about the recruiting ability of Venables as he was able to bring a lot of excellent recruits to Norman during his time there. There is also excitement about the fit for this hire. Venables coached on the other side of a fast paced, high octane offense that scored a lot but left the defense on the field a lot as well. In those regards, folks are happy and think that possible the insertion of a coordinator who has his background and has had success coaching against spread-type attacks.

Conversely, the question on everyone’s mind is whether OU was good in the early 2000’s moreso because of Mike Stoops than Venables. Further, our fanbase, like the OU fanbase, points to the relative "drop off" in defensive performance over the past couple seasons and wonders, again, if Venables is indeed an elite coordinator as Oklahoma gave up absolutely ridiculous statistics in several games this past season (Baylor and Ok State come to mind immediately).

CCM - After spending some time on Shakin the Southland, it seems like you guys are into the big trend in sports right now with statistical analysis. Have you had time to look into Venables' defenses and if so, what have the stats shown you that you like and dislike?

StS - Actually we're not big stat guys. We don't quote many yardage/game statistics to our readers except as an indicator of performance, but we will show correlations when we see fit to use them. Stats don't prove that a player is good or that a coach can coach, they are just indicators that can be used in an argument. Most of the time, we go by the eye test all the way and prefer not to use many statistics, but we will throw them out in game previews we write only for our readers to see.

We are getting into a complete analysis of BV now but have not completed all items. So far, though, I’ll tell you that I was immediately impressed with his ability to recruit. From 2006 to 2010, Venables is credited as the primary recruiter for a slew of signees and averaged 3+ recruits rated at four stars (Rivals) or better each class. At times, he brought in 7 or 8 players per class over this time period. That is flat out getting it done, especially as the defensive coordinator who has to gameplan in addition to recruit.

Otherwise, we’ll need to normalize some defensive statistics because OU’s offense puts the defense on the field far more than the NCAA average team. Further, we’ll need to compare OU’s defense to another stud defense from the Big 12 to compare apples to apples. Long and short, we look to have those answers on our site in the near future but don’t have them pieced together right now.

CCM - Given the substantial contract Brent Venables was given, the obvious question is how much do you think that increases expectations for him to come in and make a noticeable impact immediately? Do you think Clemson fans will allow him a grace period of some kind?

StS - When you get paid as he’ll get paid, obviously expectations will be high as soon as he arrives at Clemson. I believe the savvy CU fans will realize that our front four returns very little experience and our linebacker play over the past couple years has been horrid so BV has some problems to overcome. The Tigers had a host of fundamental issues as well as "offense specific items" (trouble against spread offenses and against mobile quarterbacks) that really stuck out. I believe that CU fans will expect more fundamental soundness and better play out of the linebackers in particular. As poorly as the defense played in ’11, some of these expectations shouldn’t be too tough to meet. Also, we (STS) realize that this season will be used to backfill lost players and gain experience for others due to recruiting issues related to coaching turnover in ’08 as well as some questionable recruiting strategies that has our Tigers in a vulnerable position in terms of players with quality snaps.

CCM - We've read some speculation that Dabo Swinney's future at Clemson could be directly related to how this hire plays out. Do you believe that could prove to be an accurate statement?

StS - I believe that this hire will dictate how successful he is at Clemson. When Dabo was hired on as permanent head coach, he immediately fired then defensive coordinator Vic Koening. He went out and got "his guy" Kevin Steele and eventually got Steele a large raise. In fact, Clemson will honor financial obligations to Steele, so we are on the hook for a lot of cash between him and Venables this year. Also, this being Dabo’s second "guy" (after getting rid of two guys prior) that he should be able to bring in someone to get this team to the next level, particularly when you look at the salaries Steele and Venables command.

Personally, I believe Dabo’s leash has been relieved a good bit due to this season’s ACC championship. Surely he is assured two more seasons and his success during those seasons will dictate his future. Unless Clemson wins a ton of games in spite of a poor defense or Venables leaves, this should be Dabo’s last DC hire for 3-4 years. If we are not successful enough to allow Swinney to make a big hire, he will most certainly be on the hot seat to say the least. Long and short, Swinney will be here so long as he wins games and having a capable defense is a critical part of being successful.

CCM - Given all the talent you have returning on offense, if you could simplify, down to 3-5 things, what Venables needs to do with this defense next season what would those things be?

StS - Fundamentals are the first key. This year’s defense was a terrible tackling defense that had trouble getting off of blocks. They struggled taking angles and getting into proper position, so we will look to Venables to correct these issues.

Second, our linebacker play was pathetic. Clemson has a talented group of younger linebackers and we hope these guys can be molded to output excellent ball play. We also hope that Venables can develop a linebacker rotation, something that Steele was unable to do.

We had issues setting the edge all season and containing mobile quarterbacks. This absolutely has to be fixed. You probably saw Austin (WVU) exploit the edge over and over down in Miami. We saw it the whole year and offenses crushed our Tigers with it. Opposing quarterbacks also had a field running the ball some this season. This happened particularly at Maryland and at South Carolina. Of all the ways you can cause yourself to lose, you never want it to be at the feet of the opposing team’s QB.

Finally, we hope that BV can simplify things for our players. On what seemed like every play, the players spent the entire pre-snap aligning, yelling at each other, realigning, then yelling and hand signaling some more and when the ball was snapped the guys seemed neither set nor comfortable. Also, our guys did not look to be playing to attack the ball (instinctively) but to almost read and react and play timidly. It looked as though they were thinking too much which we all know slows players down and makes them less aggressive.

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