To put it kindly, the Clemson defense has been a work in progress this season. Brent Venables inherited a unit that gave up 70 points in the Orange Bowl so it’s not like he was taking over a juggernaut. The Tigers showed signs of improvement during the season, but for the most part every team they faced gave them trouble.
Venables’ unit can take a huge step forward and make a statement if they can find a way to stymie LSU in the upcoming Chick-fil-A Bowl. The Bayou Bengals aren’t known for their offensive prowess, but they still wear an SEC logo on their jerseys and have the luster of a team that has played for and one national titles the past few seasons.
“It’s a great challenge,” Venables said following the Tigers practice Tuesday. “[LSU is] a great program, a great tradition, they’ve played as well as anyone the past three years in college football. They’ve recruited awfully well. They’ve got great coaches.”
AUDIO: Brent Venables on LSU [3:57]
Venables has put most of his unit’s problems on a few key busts in each game. A blown assignment here, a missed tackle there, wrong coverage, wrong angle, etc. Dabo Swinney has reiterated all season that the personnel is not the problem. He is convinced the players and the system is sound, that youth and inexperience are the main culprits to the chuck plays and big numbers opposing teams are racking up.
Swinney, Venables and the Tigers defense will get a chance to prove they’ve grown up later this month in Atlanta.