CLEMSON — The Clemson Tigers (3-0) will play their third triple-option team in their first four games this week when they take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-2).
But unlike their first two triple-option tests, against the Furman Paladins and Georgia Southern Eagles, the Tigers will face the architect of the triple-option offense in Yellow Jackets’ head coach Paul Johnson.
"Anxious to get ready for the triple-option, tough challenge,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “Georgia Tech have been better than most anybody in the country at running it for a very long time. Coach Johnson's had incredible success. They've got a very difficult system to defend. I know that even in a loss last week they still rushed for over 300 yards and had every chance to win that game and probably should have.”
Having already played two option teams could be a blessing for the Tigers, but it could also be a curse, as the Yellow Jackets will now have two full games of tape on how the Tigers plan to defend the option attack — which makes the task ahead of the Tigers that much more difficult.
"We're going to need a great effort. It's a little bit different than some of the option that we've seen,” Venables said. “We’ve gotten some work with it, but Coach Johnson has a couple of games worth of film to really study what we're doing. We had to line up and stop Furman and Georgia Southern, so to a certain extent you had to reveal yourself to them."
However, the Tigers have had the Yellow Jackets' number -- after giving up a combined 114 points to the Yellow Jackets’ offense between 2012 and 2015, Clemson’s defense has held Georgia Tech to a mere 17 points in their last two meetings, while allowing only 209 yards a game in each of their last two meetings.
The Tigers’ success against the Johnson-led option attack is a result of execution and has nothing to do with the superior athletes on defense.
"I think it's execution. I think that the players understand the plan and executing,” Venables said. “It’s not like we're playing undisciplined football. Are we faster than some people they might see? Maybe. But if the fast guy's not going in the right place, if he's not squeezing and closing, if he's not playing the dive when he's supposed to, and just go down the list and if they're not doing the little things right, then they'll expose you.
“They make a lot of teams with superior athletes look like fools and they have for a long time.”
Venables' message to his defense is a simple on: Don’t get complacent. Because at the end of the day, that will spell doom.
“You've got to be physical, violent, disruptive and you've got to be able to do it for four quarters,” Venables said. “That's how they lull people to sleep. They're getting tired of playing those cut blocks and scoop blocks and cut blocks and crack block and things of that nature and they start losing their intensity for precision. That's when you get exposed. It's going to take an incredible effort from all of our guys -- everybody."