Since Clemson’s Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables’ arrival, the Tigers defense has been one of the top units in college football. Outside 2012 (Venables’ first year) the Tigers defense has found itself in the top 25 in Defensive Efficiency, finish #1 twice (2014, 2019). The Tigers have a unique brand of aggressive four-down defense in a time were the Tite Front is king.
One thing that makes Venables stand out among his peers is his willingness to try new things. During their game against Texas A&M, Clemson trotted out their own version of the Odd Dime to combat the Aggie Spread. It was documented last Spring that the Iowa State and Clemson defensive staffs had conversed. This should come as no shock because Venables is a Big 12 guy, having grown up in Kansas, played and coached under Bill Snyder at Kansas State, and cut his proverbial DC teeth at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops.
2019 would see the Tigers play for their fourth National Title in five years. That is on the same par with Alabama who has become somewhat of a recent rival. Though the 2019 Tigers would eventually fall short versus LSU in the National Championship, the defense was still #1 in DEff for 2019.
One highlight from 2019’s defense is the jack-of-all-trades, Isaiah Simmons (#8 overall in ’20). Venables used him as a true hybrid player by placing him all over the field to create matchup issues (even at “Post” Safety!). The Tigers matchup versus Ohio State in the Fiesta bowl would highlight the flexibility of Venables’ scheme versus one of the best examples of the modern Y-off Spread. Below are three of the best pressures from that game.
The first clip is a simulated pressure that attacks the edge of the Ohio State line. The Buckeyes initially align in a Trey formation and shift to a 2×2 Pro Twin set. Clemson is in their 3rd Down Dime package with Simmons on the TE (Ni) and the Di on top of the Slot WR. As the Buckeyes motion, both the Ni and Di stay on the same side, the Safeties just rotate to the hashes.
On the line of scrimmage (LOS), the Tigers are in an “Overload” Front. This means that there are more defenders on one side of the line than the other. In this particular look, the Tigers have the DE, Nose, and Mike LB all to one side. The proximity of the Ni also stresses the defense because he is in position to blitz (along with the Ni). Away from the TE, the Tigers have the Will in the “A” gap and another DE as a wide-5.
I’ve explained before how an Overload (above) look can force the offense to do two things. First, the offense can slide to the two “bigs” and lock the backside tackle on the opposite DE or EDGE player. Second, the mugged LBs in the middle of the formation can force man blocking or five-on-five, which is illustrated in the clip below. Clemson runs a different look with the Mike and Will mugged in the “A” gaps. Venables is known for his four-down “Double-A” pressures, but this is a great example of giving different presentations to force the offense to work. Continue reading “MQ Pressure Tape: Clemson vs Ohio St. (2019)”