CLEMSON — Tyler Venables was the second-lowest ranked recruit in Clemson’s 2020 recruiting class, but the sophomore is making some noise.
The second-year player is developing into a key part of his father’s defense after a productive spring. The former high school quarterback provides some positional versatility for Clemson in 2021. Don’t be surprised if the low three-star recruit is on his way to carving out an important role for the defense.
In the spring game, the defensive back led all players with 3.5 sacks, while contributing seven total tackles for the White squad. Playing the hybrid Sam linebacker or nickel position, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound defender flashed some playmaking ability.
The head coach was impressed with the young player.
“He’s light years ahead of where he was this time last year,” said Dabo Swinney after the spring game. “Again, he’s one of those guys that’s got some scars on him now, he’s got some wounds. Now he’s got some experience to draw upon. That’s going to make him better.”
The Tigers threw Venables into the fire right away as a true freshman. In 2020, the versatile player played 214 snaps, while recording 24 tackles and three pass breakups. After starring at quarterback for Daniel High, the athlete made the full-time transition to defense as a college freshman.
For the time being, Venables may have found a home. When looking for nickel and dime defenders, defenses want versatile players that can do multiple things. These athletes must be able to cover. After that, contributing with run support is non-negotiable. Then the modern-day football players must possess the quickness and football IQ to be an effective pass rusher in blitz situations. When not doing this, these hybrid athletes must be able to make plays in space. This is not an easy position.
Clemson enters the season with plenty of questions on defense, but this spring some possible solutions arrived. The Tigers appear to have a star in sophomore Trenton Simpson and the former five-star prospect will likely open the season as the starter at Sam linebacker. The unique player could be a unicorn that can cover, blitz, stop the run and tackle in space at 225 pounds. However, defenses can only stay in base looks for so long.
When defensive coordinator Brent Venables decides to roll with sub-packages that include five or six defensive backs at a time, the younger Venables could become a vital piece of the defense. The ability to do multiple things makes the sophomore a very unique chess piece.
“A young, versatile player that now has some experience,” said Swinney.