Brent Venables ready to use his new weapons of mass destruction


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Xavier Thomas and Mike Jones are part of Clemson's 2018 recruiting class
Xavier Thomas and Mike Jones are part of Clemson's 2018 recruiting class

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has a missile he can throw at opposing offenses in defensive end Clelin Ferrell, who goes by the nickname CleMissile. With the addition of the 2018 recruiting class, Venables now has weapons of mass destruction.

Venables made the remark during a national signing day telecast at the school, smiling as he talked about the addition of players like Xavier Thomas, K.J. Henry, Justin Mascoll, Darnell Jefferies, Josh Belk, Mike Jones, Jr., Jake Venables and Kyler McMichael.

The lone surprise came from Henry, who made his announcement on ESPN. Venables says the coaches had no idea which way Henry was going to go.

“We always knew that we were in good shape because we had a long relationship,” Venables told TigerNet. “And when I say good shape, I mean I knew that we were going to be in it. But he never gave us a wink or nod, and even his mother said that when they went up on stage (for his announcement), she didn't even know. We were watching on TV - we had just gotten off the practice field and we were watching in the coaches' room on TV. When she went up there, she kind of had a frown on her face.

“She was kind of faceless as opposed to a smile, and I told (defensive line coach Todd) Bates, 'This ain't good, this ain't good' because she had loved Clemson all along. So we had a little drama in our room. But we really didn't know for sure until he uttered the words.”

What does Henry bring to the defense?

“Length and athletic ability. Bright and really sharp,” Venables said. “Kind of like Clelin (Ferrell) and Christian (Wilkins) in that he really likes to play the game. Has fun playing the game. K.J. can fit in anywhere. That's the personality he has, and he can fit in anywhere. He's a relationship-driven guy. He's a great fit for us. “

The nation’s number one defensive end, Thomas committed to Clemson last April.

“What you see with him is just physical maturity,’ Venables said. “A speed and power combination. He's a focused young guy. I just think his physical maturity sets him apart from other guys.”

Mascoll will only get better.

“I think he is really undervalued. He is super-athletic,” Venables said. “He can really bend and is a very natural pass-rusher. Everything is in front of him. He has great instincts. A terrific first step, and when he adds weight and maturity I think he has a chance to be really special.”

Jefferies hopes to provide depth at defensive tackle, along with Belk.

“Darnell comes in as another physically-mature guy. He has good quickness and is a good athlete for such a big guy,” Venables said. “Very agile. Mature with the use of his hands. A lot of young guys want to look in the backfield and not use their hands in a violent way to control linemen. He does a great job at using his hands as a weapon.

“Josh is just physically imposing. He has great strength is heavy-handed with a great punch. He comes in with a good understanding of playing defensive tackle. He won't be overwhelmed in regards in how to deal with double-teams and squeeze linemen and back-blocks and crossface and things like that. Those things will come very natural for him.”

Jones is making the transition to linebacker after playing quarterback and safety early in his high school career.

“Mike only played linebacker for a year. He kind of came out of nowhere and he told me wanted to commit. We had offered him as an athlete,” Venables said. “He was a high school quarterback before he went to IMG and then played safety and then moved to linebacker. He is what we look for in an athlete at linebacker. He can play both inside and outside and his best football is ahead of him. He is kind of scratching the surface.”

Venables also gets the chance to coach his son, Jake, who starred at nearby Daniel High School.

“It is going to be an honor to coach him,” Venables said. “I am excited for him as much as anything because of Clemson and all the resources that are going to pour into him. He's long and a good athlete for a bigger kid. He's tough and uses his hands well in getting off blocks. He is a hard worker, He is going to fit in really, really well with our guys and they will bring the best out of him.”

McMichael will be counted on to play right away.

“He might be the best athlete out of all the guys. He is long and he is instinctive,” Venables said. “He's big and he's phsyical. He has great instincts. He has the kind of ability that he can play running back. Those are the kinds of guys we want on the defense. They just naturally transition well. He is very intelligent and mature and likes to work and grind. We are going to need him to play right away.”

In other words, Venables loves what he sees out of this defensive class.

“It's very good. I really think when it comes to quality this is as good as it gets. The numbers - you aren't bringing in 14 or 15 guys, but the quality of the players and the people is what jumps out at you,” he said. “We hit the home run ball. I think whether guys come back or not, we have been saying for a while that we don't have depth so we plan on these guys coming in and contributing and helping. They will have a big say in that with how they come in and transition and work. That's been the plan all along.”

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