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January 11, 2020

Brent Venables

New Orleans, Louisiana

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, absolutely, to adjust. Just very experienced within the scheme. It's a tough scheme. They do a great job of spreading you out and making you defend every patch of grass on the field with incredible, explosive, dynamic play-makers.

I'm so sick of seeing 22, 81, 1, 2, 6, then the quarterback. Man, you got so much respect for Joe and the success he's had. That's a very tough thing. I know just as a professional picking up my family however long ago that was, eight years ago, how hard that is, how hard it is for a young person.

He thought his dream was to go to Ohio State, he grew up in that state. I don't know the half of it. But it takes a lot of courage and boldness and belief in himself to go somewhere he has no familiarity with and start over. To see him win the Heisman, that's cool. That's a cool part of being in college football at such an innocent, young age, to see him mature and grow, to have the kind of success he's had.

He's done it in such a way as to inspire. What a great example he is for having some toughness and belief in himself.

Q. How would you quantify this challenge?
BRENT VENABLES: Again, matchup-wise, you know, you'd like to take your very best of all your different pieces and parts throughout the years, but you can't do that. That's the fun part of it, too.

But they have all been really good. These guys, I don't know if we faced a quarterback completing 80% of his passes, 55 touchdowns, over 5,000 yards. Again, the depth of the play-makers is what makes them unique, as well. The running back is not just a running back, he's really a bonafide receiver, as well.

Again, the system is a little bit different than many of the others, a true spread offense. Yeah, they're all tough when you get here, so...

Q. (Question about 16 days.)
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, no, it feels like really, to be honest with you, how we got ready for our first game, the same type of a timeframe. Sometimes having too much time is not a good thing, to be honest.

But it has been nice. We needed -- after a really tough, physical game against Ohio State, I think it came at the right time to regroup, heal up, make one last go of it here for this season.

It's actually been good under the circumstances for us.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: I mean, you just try to do what you do, to be very honest. Again, Oklahoma was short a few players both in their secondary and up front. I can't really speak -- I don't really know anything other than that.

They're in position. LSU came up and made a really good plays, particularly early in the game when Oklahoma was sputtering on offense. Oklahoma came out and played, very competitive position, position plays. Just didn't come up on the right end of it.

They've had success on everybody, so it's not an Oklahoma thing by any stretch. You got to play well as a football team. You show up on Monday night and slop around, this game, it will get ugly on either side of the ball -- or either sideline, rather.

You slop around and don't execute, don't complement one another, that's really week in and week out when you're playing good people.

I think the margin for error with, again, the ability to execute. They're exploit you. They're really, really good. You're playing really good people that are well-coached and very precise in everything that they're doing.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Had those monsters up front (laughter). We were really good last year. That was a very comparable group of defensive linemen. You always say it starts up front. Whatever Auburn's plan was, everybody played well. But the guys up front, really that's what I noticed that's just different.

Q. How do you make it up without the talent you had last year?
BRENT VENABLES: I don't know. I try to figure it out week in, week out. To be honest, literally you try to come up with a game plan, try to help your guys, put them in a position to be successful. That sounds cliché, but that's really what we've done all year.

So sometimes you can just ride your horses, and other times you got to help guys grow up. We got a lot of youth. Lost a lot of guys from a year ago. I couldn't be more proud of our guys, how they bought in, worked, believed when really nobody else did. Probably me included. I didn't know, to be honest with you, how we would grow up and develop and those types of things.

How you do it? Again, you're not going to reinvent the wheel in two weeks. We are who we are since July. You just make one last go at it, have belief, play with effort, play with physical toughness. Then you got to make plays. You're going to be in some competitive positions. You got to make plays.

If we're successful on defense, it won't be because of me, I can promise you, it will be because of the players that are out on the field. They're executing, again, lining up, getting their nose bloody, putting their hands in the grass. That's really what it will come down to.

Q. (Question regarding Joe Burrow.)
BRENT VENABLES: Just a dynamic, terrific player. Creates a lot of matchup issues for you. He's excellent in the passing game. Plays with great toughness in the running game. Gives them great balance in everything they're doing.

Unfortunately he's not just the running back, we got to stop the run game. This is a guy that they get a lot of quick run game out on the perimeter with him. He's a very, very good player, but plays with great toughness and passion, too.

Q. Look different than a lot of the guys in terms of physical makeup?
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, he's over a 600-pound squat guy. I just love that. Watching him really all year -- you get your different windows to watch college football, and I love to watch other people play. I'm not talking about just film study, just watching highlights. You get a chance to watch a game, a quarter, whatever.

A lot of respect for him. He's a different dude, no question. I think it would be hard I'm sure for them, but for us watching him, I think he's the heart and soul of their whole offense.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: I think as much as anything else, whether how elite, whether you got a first-round draft pick at quarterback, I think it certainly helps. It takes a lot of pressure off you on defense.

We've been fortunate to have that for us on defense. It has really all year, this year in particular, taken a lot of pressure off of us, put a lot of pressure on the opponent's offense.

I think you certainly can, but I think you have to be able to throw the football in this day and age to be successful at this level. So I don't know if it's a necessity, but it sure helps.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know, yeah. I doubt it. That was a heck of a night, crazy night. Two touchdown underdogs going into it. Heisman Trophy winner, all those other things on the other sideline.

We had a group of misfits that had a chip on their shoulder, not a lot of people recruited. They played out of their minds that night.

Special group of guys, different years, different times, but...

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: I don't know. There's a lot of checking at the sideline. There's a lot of things that are going on on the field presnap. They're trying to get in the best looks on offense, trying to prevent negative plays. We're trying to not make it easy on the opponents by opening up our playbook for them.

Most of the times the defensive coordinator has to signal in first, then the offense gets to choose when they're going to snap the ball. Defensively you're at their will. So I don't know.

We're trying to do just what the offense does. I don't know why we get so much attention for it. The offense is changing the plays, going really fast. You got to have a strategy for it or you just get out there in one call the whole game, again, expose yourself to -- they'll get in -- if you -- signal in quarters, they're going to have their quarter beater dialed up, you know, signalling man, they're going to have your man -- again, that's the advantage offensively, is they get to decide when they're going to snap it.

There has to be strategy on both sides. Why do they go tempo, no-huddle, why do they check the sideline. I'm just asking. So they can get in the best call based on the structure that you're presenting.

We're trying to do the same thing. That's all we're doing, trying to counteract that.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: I didn't see anybody. I mean, there's some games where they were closer than others. But we don't have Auburn's front, okay? Auburn, I thought their defensive line was physically imposing. That's not how we're built this year.

But, you know, again, at the end of the day what it really comes down to is us and trying to create good matchups, play with good fundamentals, good technique. The flipside of it, they're running great routes, throwing it right on that back shoulder, getting out of the backfield, catching it downhill, timely screens, trying to punch you in the gut in the A gap.

There's no real secret to how you got to play good defense. You got to play good physically. You got to play good fundamentally. If you pressure, you got to get there quick because the ball is coming out fast.

Again, this late in the season, they've seen it all. You're not going to trick or confuse them. I don't think that's realistic. Guy is completing 80% of his passes. I don't know how much success anybody's had on him.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, he's not unheralded to us. 22, 81, 1, 2, 6, 9. They got a superstar cast, fabulous football players, all dynamic in their own ways. The tight end has terrific hands, but, man, he blocks like you're supposed to block. They've got a great system set up to get him in the passing game, to get him involved. How they flex him out of the box, use him in the box, slow your rush down.

They're dynamic across the board.

Then the quarterback makes it all go. But the running back is very, very -- has an incredible skill set. Again, he's a committee guy. He's over a 600-pound squat guy. Loves the weight room as a skill guy. Love that. Plays with toughness and passion and purpose. They use him probably more so than any other offense that we have faced all year in the passing game, really make you defend the perimeter with him.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, it's pretty cool. He got here as one of the last guys in that class to get into school, really didn't have a lot of attention in regards to recruiting. Coach Swinney gave him an opportunity.

Then you got to applaud Denzel for the work that he's put in. To graduate, to earn his way on the depth chart. Been a great leader for us. Is really a great example of a guy just believing and investing and working, keep putting his head down.

It's really cool. Really proud of Denzel.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Sure, yeah. I think the quarterback is very in tune to the system, to what the, quote/unquote, answers are -- zone, blitz, drop eight, whatever it is.

Then if you watch them systematically, very last second they're checking, are we good to go? In their world, you're trying to get in the best call, least exposure. You don't want to be vulnerable. Are we in a good look here?

Fortunately for them on offense, how they're all set up, they can snap the ball when they want to snap the ball. Defensively you're trying to do the same thing strategically to get in the best call, to not be a sitting duck. Let your guys still play aggressive and fast.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Hey, that's what good players do, right? That's what good players do, you know. Like no, no, yes, great play. I think Deshaun Watson, Texans last week, coach is over there probably screaming, Throw the ball away. My man is making plays. That's what great players do.

Joe Burrow is not some slappy. Just won the Heisman. Well deserved, man. What an incredible year. Y'all cover college football for a living, we coach it for a living. He's had one of the best seasons we've all seen in a long, long time for an individual.

As an offense, to know what they were just a short year ago, to what they're doing now, the level they're able to execute, probably with the same group of guys, I don't know who they all had last year skill-wise, but it's pretty remarkable.

Q. How good is Joe? How ridiculous is he sometimes?
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, I mean, he's unbelievable. The poise, the toughness, the precision, the accuracy, his ability to throw and improvise, throw on the run and improvise, extend plays. He's really, really good. Doesn't matter to the left, to the right. We try to do all the studies. He's a great player.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: It's really all games. You don't say, Let's get more prepared for the national championship. To me, I think to have sustainability, consistency, you prepare for all of them the same way. When you start, Okay, we're going to put more time or practice different or meet different, you're asking for it. Your players will know right away.

So for me personally as a coach, growing up in the Bill Snyder school of thought, you want to stay in a routine that's very consistent, never way up here, never way down here. You have a very methodical way in which you prepare every single game.

When you do that, your players are always engaged. This week you're not going to hold them accountable, they're going to know.

So, anyway, I think having continuity on your staff is huge. The intricacies of the defense, the strengths, the weaknesses, how each other thinks, the schemes, the weaknesses and strengths of the schemes, the stress areas. It's a big deal because we're all teachers. Doesn't matter what we know, it's all about what the players know, what they can comprehend, understand, execute at a high level with precision.

Having coaches with consistency and experience and having chemistry is a big deal because that's going to carry over to the players.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, I mean, you see something you think in every call. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Or the timeliness of a turnover, I mean, hey, man, you know, they threw it into a squat corner. Sometimes too much gets made into that.

A.J. makes a great play, and they throw a ball, a coverage they didn't anticipate. But the timeliness of it, the magnitude in that game, that was a big play. It was a long game. You have a chance to respond. That's what it's all about, good or bad.

So sometimes I think too much gets made of it to me.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, I mean, I've always had incredible respect for the Wake Forest staff, what they do, what they've done systematically, what they do. It's taken a little while. They're like a triple option team. Do a fabulous job. Jamie has been a terrific player for them, very dynamic, big, strong, athletic, tough, does all the RPOs very well. Got a big arm.

So Georgia is getting a really good player.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: He's just got it. He's got instincts. He's got great understanding of both their system and certainly of the defense. That's coming from somewhere. He's very well coached. He's in a terrific system for their skill. Their ability to execute at such a high level and figure things out before the ball is snapped is really remarkable. Doesn't force plays. Nothing seems to rattle him.

Again, his precision is just uncanny.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: I'm pretty mean to my guys. This is one of my vulnerable moments here. I'll play along here real quick.

Q. (Question from players.) Out of all the stuff, who was the ugliest growing up? Go ahead and say it.
BRENT VENABLES: I can't do that to nobody. C'mon, man.

Q. Who is the meanest coach on staff?
BRENT VENABLES: I'm going to have to go with Adam Smotherman. Have to go with Smo. All right, guys (laughter).

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: It's really how we slow them down. It's everybody playing well. You're going to have to make competitive plays. You're going to have to fit the A gap. You're going to have to blitz on time. You're going to have to play with the correct outside technique. That's what to me it comes down to.

It's really getting 11 guys every snap trying to play at that high level of precision because that's what they do on offense. They make very few mistakes. It's all led by him. He gets them in the right plays, makes the right decisions based on what he sees.

Again, he's got multiple answers on any given play. That's what makes them tough.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, any time a quarterback, whether it's Deshaun Watson in the NFL, making plays with his legs, what I love about Joe, just, again, as a football coach and as a competitor, is he never is rattled, never gets out of whack. He's always got his eyes down the field. He'll throw across his body, he'll throw it over the top, he'll throw it short. His accuracy on the run is incredible. He creates plays.

There's a play early, I think it's a 7-0 or 7-3 game against Oklahoma, and he's on the sideline, he's getting run out of bounds, got a good call on defense, they got them all covered, the receiver gets knocked out-of-bounds, he comes back inbounds and they make a great play and they go on and score, and they just rip the life out of you. That's what they've done really all year.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: I don't know what it was a year ago, but I know where he is now. Of course, he wasn't good enough at Ohio State. They had a loaded quarterback room. So I've got so much respect for him. The boldness and the courage to go somewhere and start over, I'm sure leaving his dream school, grew up being an Ohio State fan. It's a heartbreaking thing for their whole family.

To start completely over, go to Louisiana, just kind of out of his neck of the woods, so to speak. To see him have the kind of success, he's hard to pull against. Yeah, it is pretty remarkable. Just shows you what the right system and the right coaching and the right belief and the work ethic, the toughness that you have, that combination, what's possible.

Again, as somebody that has to line up and play against him, I have nothing but great respect for him.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Well, I think it's certainly a part. I think it's harder if you don't have continuity, if there's a lot of change, not good for anybody. I think the stability, the understanding of who we are, the reinforcement of the culture that Coach Swinney has put in place, the type of young people that we recruit. There's an alignment with us as a staff on what we're looking for, how we develop our guys.

Again, culturally, systematically, all those things work together. I think there's a cohesion that's tough to replicate. Not that we have all the answers, but the stability is a good thing.

But most of all I think it's Coach Swinney that doesn't get content. He is as relentless as ever. He shows up every day with the same kind of mindset. I know as we do on defense trying to stop somebody on third-and-one, that's how he shows up every day, with passion, love and excitement, with accountability, with discipline. Those are the keys to having sustainable success.

So as the leader of our program, he's always looking forward, always looking for what's next, how we can get better. You see it so many times in the, quote/unquote, dynasties, the long, successful runs of businesses, organizations at the NFL level, certainly collegiately, over the course of history, they usually deteriorate and are destroyed inside-out. Whether that's administratively, coaches, turnover, just being content, letting the game or the things that you have to do to continue to improve pass you by.

He's a fearless, very bold, again, always forward-thinking. I think that's incredibly important. But us understanding that and supporting that and nurturing that in our own segments is a big deal.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: I mean, a year ago Alabama was really good. So I don't want to take anything away from them. But at 80% completion percentage, they've played great defenses, great personnel, so the precision that they're operating with and executing, no, I haven't.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: It's different, yeah. It's definitely different. They're very good at it. They create a lot of space issues for you. Just a dynamic player both as a runner and in the passing game. He's been a huge part of their success.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Boy, things have changed (laughter). Things have changed. They were really good then.

I remember specifically I didn't have any idea who the receivers were. They were pretty good. If I would have then what I know now, there's no way we would have had the same game plan. We're just going to man 'em up, load the box, make 'em beat us in the air. Man, I needed to have my head checked (laughter).

Yeah, things have changed. It's incredible how quick just from a year ago systematically to what they are now, as well. But they've always been able to recruit really good players. They're doing a terrific job systematically, as well, putting them in a position to be explosive and successful.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: To me, you're not going to trick him. He's got a terrific offensive line. They were voted as the best in the country, right? They're going to give him time. They understand what's coming at 'em, how to pick everything up.

He's a very poised, confident quarterback that's going to go through his reads. So, you know, disguising, you try to disguise all the time. Sometimes what they do, they don't give you as much of an opportunity to disguise. It still comes down to executing, just like you're talking about putting it on the back shoulder, his 50/50 ball that's 80/20. He's very accurate.

If the receiver has him stacked, he's laying it out front. If the receiver is on top of it, he's back shouldering it. That's what good players do. The receivers are a huge part of that, too. To know how to adjust, where the defender is.

So all the disguise stuff to me is overblown. You try to do that, everybody does on defense. Sometimes, again, they don't allow you to do that. That's how their system is set up to show your hand.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, any time a quarterback is a, quote/unquote, dual-threat guy that can run, pass, extend plays, throw on the run, tuck it and get a first down, it's a tough thing to manage on defense. It's very tough to defend. Again, we're talking about Deshaun Watson, as a coach you're like throw it away, then makes these incredible plays.

Joe has done that all year. Again, great poise when things break down to keep his eyes downfield. Then the receivers do a terrific job at getting open, going up and getting the ball and making plays.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Obviously we're built different this year. But it takes the players being committed and believing in what you're doing, understanding what you're doing. We have a very intelligent group of players, enough veterans particularly in our back seven, guys like Skalski and Smith that even though they weren't starters, they are very involved in our system, in our game planning the last few years. They're just smart guys. Transitionally it was easy for them.

We had a bunch of guys coming back in the secondary. You have a guy like Derion Kendrick who is just a football player. He's never lost a football game since -- through high school he didn't lose one, and through his first two years in college has not lost a football game. Transitioning from receiver to a corner this year was not a hard thing because he's a great football player.

He's still learning the intricacies of his position. His instincts, his knowledge, even though our verbiage and everything was different for him, it was easy for him. Those things help.

Then the young guys up front, our coaches have done a good job of developing them, bringing them along. We try to protect them early in the year. They've improved and gotten better as the year has gone on, gained experience, gotten healthy.

Every year is different. We say that all the time in the coaching profession. You got to start over. In some ways we had to really start over and try some things out to give us a chance and play to our strengths.

Again, we've got some dynamic football players. You got a great one in A.J. Terrell, a special player in Isaiah Simmons that can do so many things. Both Tanner Muse and K'Von Wallace, they bring physical toughness, speed, athletic ability. K'Von has played every position for us -- linebacker, corner, safety, nickel, dime. He's played it all.

These are guys that just love ball. They've been very consistent. It gives you a great chance. They've had a great edge to them all year. A lot of people thought this was a rebuilding year. Probably us coaches, me included, like, Well, this is going to be a tough one here. These guys have put all that aside, have chosen to be great.

We've got a great offense that's very tough to defend. So it's been a really fun year. No drama. These are accountable, self-driven young people that are easy to coach. So it's been a lot of fun.

When you give them a chance to go out there and play, sometimes they surprise you. Some guys have. What a cool story it is for a guy like Chad Smith, this is his first year ever starting a football game, he's the Defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl, to have a chance to go win a national championship. I just think that's so cool. To see the patience.

We have some other guys like that, again, whether it's Tanner Muse, K'Von Wallace, these seniors that are very invested in our football program, means so much. That sometimes can be the difference on any given Saturday when talent matches talent.

These guys just have a will and a cohesion that you just -- it's hard to deny.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: That was a couple years ago. I think I approached him, he said, Coach, I was just thinking the same thing.

He said, Good, you're going to do it anyway (laughter).

He brings such a dynamic skill set with length, size. He's a very disruptive player. So trying to get him in more of a play making position close to the line of scrimmage, where he can do a lot, was the idea. That's a position that's hard to find guys that can cover, play the run, understand zone, have the instincts to play at that position, blitz, all of those things.

So his season a year ago was like this up until the last three games were his best three games. The lights started to go on. Not only understand his position, but understand the why in the guys around him. He's put in a lot of time this year in the summer really studying our defense, the people that he's going to play next to. That's really let him really just take off as a player.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: I mean, when you got really good players, the ability to execute with the precision they do, yeah, it's hard. I think it requires you to play with the same kind of precision. It's hard.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: I mean, we've played a lot of really good teams, good systems, good coaches. But the consistency, the level against really good people, I don't know if anybody's played -- they've played a gauntlet of good teams and good defenses and good defensive players. The level of consistency that they've played, their ability to execute is really special. It's remarkable, really.

They have such a dynamic group of play-makers not only at wideout, 1, 2 and 6, but with 81 and 22. Probably all starts with 22, really exceptional. Then the guy at quarterback, Joe Burrow, as a Heisman guy, he's been unbelievable as a runner, thrower, just as a manager, making decisions, his play-making. He's been really, really special.

Q. Talk about Tanner Muse and what he does for you.
BRENT VENABLES: Tanner has been just an incredible leader. He's had a fabulous year. Really a terrific career from the blocked partial punt in the 2016 national championship in the second half to saving that tackle a year ago. He's had more extra-effort plays than anybody that we've had.

What a special play. That might have been the play of the year. Just so proud of him. Thankful for his leadership. He is in that film room every single day. What a great example he is for what it looks like to lead and to care a little more, to invest.

When you got your leadership like that, where they're self-driven, they're team-first guys, just very committed to not only themselves but to the team, that's how you're able to maybe sometimes -- when maybe a more talented team might show up on the field, I think that can make the difference.

So just thankful for Tanner. Appreciate his four years at Clemson, what he's done for us and, again, done for himself. What an incredible career. I think their senior class has the most wins in college football history. It's pretty amazing.

Thaddeus Moss, what I love about him as, again, a coach, a competitor, is his physical toughness, his willingness to block is different. It's just different. He's got some real dirt bag to him, which is a great compliment. Just a very tough-minded guy. He wants to get his nose bloody. He wants to hurt people. He's attacking people with purpose. Jumps off the screen. Most of the time it doesn't. And it does, it's different than what you see. You got to know where he is.

In the passing game, he made some incredible plays against Oklahoma. He's had a great year for them. You hate that he was right there. But what a great player. He brings, again, matchup issues and all those things for your linebackers, for safeties. He's like a big receiver out there.

But love how he plays, not just what he does, what routes he runs, how they target him. I like how he plays.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, I mean, to me, you have to. What could you execute at a high level? You have to match their precision, hope they're a little bit off, hope your guys make some plays. Then you got to complement each other. If we can't stop 'em, the offense is going to struggle.

We take pressure off the offense by finding ways to get some stops, create some turnovers. If they're going three-and-out every snap, it won't be a matter of if we lose. To me, you got to complement one another and you got to play well. If they throw the back shoulder throw, you got to make a play on the football. You got to win early to win late in coverage.

You get stacked right away, they're going to make you pay. You play good people, they're going to expose you when you make mistakes fundamentally, structurally. You got to play physical obviously. I know I'm talking about the passing game, but they'll bloody your nose. They're a very strong, physical offensive line. They play through the whistle. They got some guys that really like it. They're the top-rated offensive line in college football.

They got 'em all, the Biletnikoff, Heisman. To be honest, watching them, you shake your head, you applaud them because you want the same kind of execution and precision on defense. You're football coaches. You're looking for what looks good.

I love competitive plays. I love watching players that like to play the game when it's not about them. Something that doesn't ever show up, never does, on a stat sheet. It's just how they play. They play with a lot of joy. They play with a lot of passion.

But they're not out there beating their chest. To me they're representing their school and their team. They're successful the right way. They're doing it with humility, aggression, with fundamentals, with physical toughness. They're utilizing all their play-makers.

As a college football fan, it's been a fun year. It's really a great example because a year ago nobody was talking about them in the same breath. To see 8, 10, 12 months later, here they are in the national championship, just gives you, again, validation for all the things I'm talking about.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Listen, the advantage is always in the offenses -- on the offensive side of the ball. They decide when they're going to snap the ball. Look, again, to me, if you win the game, it's not because you tricked them, it's because you were more physical, more timely in making the plays at the right time, getting the stops, creating turnover, field position, complementing both sides of the ball. Again, that's what it's going to come down to, to be very honest.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, I mean, our guys are excited. Are you kidding me? Yeah, no more so than LSU. You both have worked incredibly hard. You're hopeful. You're not defined by getting to this moment, but you're hopeful if things go right that you have a chance to play for it all. We certainly do. It's been well deserved, hard earned.

For me personally, it's been kind of out of nowhere. Just how we were built defensively, feeling like you got to put a championship defense together. I didn't know if everything would work out the way we hoped. Fortunately our guys believed and they've worked incredibly hard, have developed. We've come up with systematically something that really works for us this year.

But, yeah, I mean, they're all excited to play. It's been nice to have a little extra time. That was a really physically challenging game against Ohio State. Pretty much what we thought it would be. So it's been good. But, you know, what a great matchup. It's really kind of cool to play them here. You feel like, Man, you're going right into Baton Rouge, might as well play the game in Baton Rouge. That makes it kind of fun, it really does.

It's going to be a great challenge no matter where we played them. They're really, really good. Very well coached. They've got great players. They're playing great defense here the latter part of the season in particular at the right time.

If you're going to play for a championship, that's what you got to do. They're playing their best football right now. So are we.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: No, what we do all year. What we do all year. You're not going to emulate him (laughter). Good luck.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, I mean, he's been a great football player. He's kind of the scapegoat. First of all, on the touchdown, the short yardage, that was just I put him in a bad position. For him, he's played timely plays these last two years. For us, he's our 12th man. Every time he gets on the field, he does great things. So proud of him.

It's a great story. Kind of a sidenote, it's a great story. But all the success he's had, boy, it's been well deserved and hard earned. What a great example. On the biggest stage, he could feel -- he could go in the tank, and what a great lesson just how you respond in life. Bad things are going to happen. That's not what defines you. It's always how you respond.

For him to virtually be in the same spot, the same end zone, on the same number -- on the same letter, rather, make the pick. He makes a great read. That's what happened. He's the post player. He stayed inside, breaks on the football. What a great play. Thankful for him. What a neat kid.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: He was doing the fundamentals stuff. We didn't put those guys in pads. They were really focused on working just fundamentals and things like that. So he did not.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, it's just hard. They got school. So it was hard.

Q. What does this national championship mean?
BRENT VENABLES: For me, as much as anything else, K'Von, I put all this pressure on me, I don't want to let my guys down. I don't want to give you something that's not going to give you a chance to be successful.

For me, I've watched you guys this year and marveled because, I'll be honest, I was like, Boy, this is going to be a tough year, we have to have some things really come around for us and develop the right way.

Just so proud. I'm thankful for you, for your leadership, for your teammates, for Tanner, for Isaiah, for Jamie, for Chad, for A.J., D.K. coming over there. Just proud of Denzel. I mean, you guys have really willed yourself to this position, have chosen to bring us coaches along. I mean that.

This is a player-driven sport. You guys have earned the right to be here. I'm really proud. You guys got an incredible legacy. The winningest group of seniors in the history of college football. That's really special.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: I don't think we're going to need any help. I think you boys are well prepared.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, I mean, we go against great players every single day. On game day you're never just overwhelmed. LSU presents its own unique challenges, though, with the tight end, the back and the different ways they use them. Their system is different.

Those guys are great players, as well.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Are you kidding me? Again, I love how he plays. I love how he plays. He plays the game. Again, he's got that chip on his shoulder, very dynamic receiver, out in space, very tough matchup. Then how he runs behind his guards, man, he's fun to watch.

But he'd be my MVP if I was coaching that offense just because he brings a whole other element in the running and passing game that really complements everybody else.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Listen, I'm never in harm's way. I never had a penalty prior to coming to Clemson. I would be just fine. He's doing a great job. He's doing a great job. Probably actually keeping me from getting injured.

Q. Are you keeping him in shape?
BRENT VENABLES: Probably so. You'd have to ask him. But we put it in on game day, for sure.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: I don't know about that.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Look, I'll be honest, we're at the national championship. We're one of the best defenses in college football. He's been a big part of that. He was injured earlier this year. But I thought he's had a really good year to go along with us. So there's no story there to me.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: That's good. That's good. Certainly I don't want any of our guys to be satisfied. How can I get better? That's a great attitude to have. Before we finish off with this game, then going into spring ball starting soon, that's a great attitude to have. Excited to coach him next year.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, it's as good as we've seen. Their ability to execute consistently, the precision they operate in the run game, the pass game at quarterback. His ability, again, to improvise, extend plays, throw on the run, throw under duress, it's pretty special.

It's not a big surprise why he won the Heisman Trophy. He's had that kind of a year. Got incredible respect for him. He's got great poise, a great understanding of both their system and certainly what defenses are doing and where he needs to put the ball.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: I know Dave well. He's had incredible success his whole career. Terrific football coach. Great teacher. Has a great understanding of not only defense but offense as well. I think that's an important element to have as a defensive coordinator.

To me the best compliment is his consistency of success. It's elite. Wherever he's gone, from year in, year out, you lose players, he's been able to continue to put a great unit out there every year.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: I think he was at Tech at one time. We played each other. He was out at Utah State, as well. In the coaching profession, you know, you try to find people that are doing things well, reach out to them. We've seen each other on the recruiting trail, things of that nature.

Talked ideas, systems, things of that nature.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah. Hey, sometimes you know a lot about them, they don't even know you. You're studying and watching them because you can get video from everybody. You're always looking at ways to get better, improve, continue to evolve. Dave has been a great example for all of us in this profession.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: No, I never. Just what you're doing right now. It's really pretty remarkable, though. Again, a great example from one year to the next. It doesn't have to define you. With more experience, with a new system, with some belief and hard work, what's possible. That's really probably a byproduct of what you're seeing now.

But again, they've been incredible all year. Been a lot of fun to watch as a college football fan that I am myself, their ability to execute against really, really good people, good coaches, good players. They've had incredible success all year. What a tough matchup it is for us.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Just when he transferred, I heard about him. Of course, I knew his dad when he was at Nebraska. A great player. Played on some great defenses for Tom Osborne back when Coach Osborne was back there at Nebraska. He has a great football lineage. I have incredible respect for him for having the courage and the boldness that it takes to leave your dream, go somewhere and start over. Just to have that belief.

I experienced it. I went from Oklahoma to Clemson in my own way. I know how hard it was for me as a -- whatever I was, 40 years old, to see a young person, 21, 22 years old doing that, to go win the Heisman. Man, that's a great story. Who doesn't love that? Got a lot of respect for him.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, actually when we recruited him, knowing that, again, he was going to be a safety type of guy. We've always used the safety type for that position on our defense.

This year changing some things structurally, we lost so much. We lost six linebackers, six defensive linemen, twelve guys in our two-deep. Just trying to play to our strengths.

He also was a byproduct of that. But it wasn't just him. It was really our strengths was our back unit. I really actually felt good about Jamie and Chad Smith. They hadn't ever started a college football game at linebacker, but they really were instinctive and knowledgeable players. A lot of people didn't really hear much about them going into the year.

We had a lot of confidence in those two guys also because there's got to be some connectivity between the front and the back end. Those two guys were able to help us do that.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: I don't know. I never asked him, What do you think? Should we do this? I'll be honest.

I think he liked it. He loved putting the pressure on himself, knowing that he's at a play-making position within the confines of the defense. No more important, though, than anybody else. He does have a unique skill set in some of the things he can do. Make no mistake about that.

Chad Smith, he does some things really well. He couldn't do some of the things Isaiah does. I don't want to downplay that aspect of it whatsoever because Isaiah is a very unique individual that also has football intelligence to go along with it so that you can do multiple things, too.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, yeah. I got a head coach that he doesn't give you the time in your staff meetings, in your position meetings, your segment meetings, or your time on the practice field. I'll be very honest, when we first started practicing, you're looking at an hour on the field. Part of that is special teams, some of that is good on good against the offense. Then you got individual period, then a little bit of team time, not much, and where you're working scout work.

He's progressed. He's a master at it in preparation. Knowing when to pull back, when to cancel a practice or cancel a meeting or shorten a meeting for something else. We do community service. He keeps our guys busy but engaged, hungry, excited. He wants them to have some fun.

Too much can be a bad thing. As coaches, for me, if you say, You want 15 more minutes or 15 less minutes, I'm signing up for 15 more all day. He does a great job of pulling back and giving us just enough so we don't have too much time.

But that is a byproduct, that can be a byproduct of having too much time, where we've been going however long it's been, since the end of July, it's like 10 and 10 on the treadmill. This is the longest season in the history of college football. It feels like it sometimes. But it's been so much fun because it's been such a fun group of guys to coach.

Again, Coach Swinney does an amazing job of managing us as a staff, managing the team the right way so he takes the pressure off, he demands that you have joy in the doing. When you get so busy, just having passion about what you're doing every day. It makes your job easier. The pressure and all that, it's not there.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: That's a great question. I had a year to probably think about it, to be honest with you. To me, I just wanted to make sure I held him accountable like I hold every other guy accountable. I know your players are paying attention to that. So I wasn't going to change. I was going to take my opportunities to love on him and encourage him. I try to do that with all my guys.

I tried to take moments when we're in the football facility, still be dad. Maybe you stop by his apartment on the way home at 10:30 at night so you can catch up with him. He's in the middle of his grind. I'm in the middle of my grind. But you want to try to enjoy the journey together because it's very unique and very special.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: It's Coach Swinney, yeah. It's Coach Swinney. It's important to him. You can't preach family and promote family, you can't fabricate family. He means what he says and says what he means. That's who we are.

It's really been a very easy transition.

Q. Is that part of the reason you've stayed here so long?
BRENT VENABLES: It's a huge part. There's a lot of reasons. When you work for incredible people that get it, that have the right perspective on life, that value the things that you value, give you the autonomy that he does, then we have the alignment administratively. We have a wonderful community like Clemson where you have incredible support, where you can have a chance to win every week. It's a perfect combination.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRENT VENABLES: I'll be honest, I'm embarrassed to say, I have no idea. Hold on. K'Von Wallace. Isaiah. Tanner Muse. I have no idea.

Q. D.K.
BRENT VENABLES: D.K. Was that Florida State?

Q. Yes.
BRENT VENABLES: Florida State. I don't know. Logan, Boston College. I don't know. A lot of things I remember. It's usually the bad plays. I just got a sickness that I can't overcome myself. I can't get out of my own way. You asked me about the explosive plays we gave up, I remember all of them, yeah.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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