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CLEMSON FOOTBALL: Behind enemy lines at Virginia Tech

September 29, 2017

CLEMSON — Saturday’s matchup between the No. 2 Tigers and the No. 12 Hokies will feature two of the best defensive coordinators in college football — Clemson’s Brent Venables and Virginia Tech’s Bud Foster.

When asked whether Venables and Foster are the best in college football, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said he would let their records do the talking.

“I think their backgrounds speak for itself,” Swinney said. “They’re certainly two of the best, it not the best. Consistency is what you look for. Brent is the epitome of that and so is Bud. Two outstanding coaches.”

When asked about Venables, Foster said, “I really don’t know why he is not a head coach right now himself. I personally think he’s the best defensive guy in the business right now.”

But the Clemson coordinator quickly rebuffed the compliment.

“That’s just like him to say something like that,” Venables said. “I haven’t had near the kind of success that he has, and he’s done it longer than anybody. He’s as good as there has ever been in college football. He set the standard for how to play great defense year in and year out.”

ACC depth

While the ACC appears to have one of its biggest names struggling this season with preseason No. 3 Florida State sitting at 0-2, all signs are pointing to the depth of the league being the best ever.

Currently in the ACC there are four undefeated teams joining Clemson -- Virginia Tech, Miami, Duke and Wake Forest — leading Swinney to say this year is confirmation of what he has been saying for years.

“It’s just kind of right along the line with what I’ve talked about for the last few years,” Swinney said. “I think it was 11 bowl teams last year and 9-3 in those games counting our national championship game, so what that tells you, because all those games are being played against people outside this conference, is the strength of this conference.

“So whether a team is 3-1 and 4-0, or even 0-2 in Florida State’s case ... anybody can beat anybody on any given week.”

Creating pressure

Breaking in a new kicker is a job no coach relishes, especially at midseason, but that was the task faced by the Clemson coaching staff last week when it was determined that starting placekicker Greg Huegel would miss the remainder of the season after suffering a torn ACL in practice.

The Tigers turned to redshirt junior Alex Spence to solve their kicking concerns, and in last week’s game, Spence was called on five times to add an extra point following a Tiger touchdown. He was 4-5 on those attempts.

But as the season wears on, he will undoubtedly be called upon in a key moment to attempt his first career field goal, which is why the Tigers are doing their best to prepare Spence for the moment.

“He was the best kicker in the state coming out, and you know, he’s a redshirt junior now,” Swinney said. “So he’s a more confident guy and a more experienced guy because he has gotten some experience over his first couple years. But that deal last week was really good for him, and I’m confident he’ll get the job done for us.

“I mean, we finished Tuesday practice with a long field goal. In fact, he made a 50-yarder, a game-winning 50-yarder yesterday. That’s how we end every Tuesday practice, with a long game-winner. He hit it yesterday, which was great for him, and then today we’ll finish practice with a two-minute drill. Got to have a field goal to win it. So yeah, we create all those situations for these guys just to try to give them the best preparation possible.”