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Brent Venables Compares Clemson Opponent QB Kenny Pickett to NFL Starter Joe Burrow

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables sees a lot of similar traits in Saturday's opponent Kenny Pickett as he saw when the Tigers faced Joe Burrow in the 2019 national  championship game.

Kenny Pickett isn't the only great quarterback Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has had to game-plan against. He's just the latest. 

But the Pittsburgh signal-caller has many of the same traits Venables saw in Joe Burrow, the former LSU quarterback who went No. 1 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. He's having a solid second season with the Bengals by completing 70 percent of his passes to go along with 14 touchdown strikes on a 4-2 team.

Pickett has jumped to fourth in the latest Heisman odds, according to Fanduel.

"(Pickett's) a lot like Joe Burrow from experience, calmness, accuracy and can run, makes all the right decisions, having a heck of a year," Venables said. "He's got a good compliment of players around him like Joe did and a good system that takes advantage of his skill set. Thinking about the most recent guys, he's probably the best comparison." 

The Tigers play No. 23 Pitt on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. They took on Burrow in the 2019 national title game, which LSU won. 

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In fact, Venables and Clemson have faced six quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL draft since 2018. That's not counting the one he saw in practice every day for three years: Jacksonville Jaguars' Trevor Lawrence. Venables sees Pickett, who's thrown 21 touchdowns to one interception, as another NFL guy.

"He's really good. He's going to play in the NFL," Venables said. "We've seen some really good quarterbacks over the years and we've been beaten by them, like (former Ohio State QB) Justin Fields a year ago to guys that we have defended well." 

Pickett is making the most of his final season in a long collegiate career. The Pitt star ranks eighth nationally and second in the ACC with 322 passing yards per game. He has a completion percentage of 69.8 and is averaging 9.4 yards per pass. 

Clemson held Pickett to 209 passing yards and picked him off four times in a 52-17 victory over the Panthers a year ago. The Tigers allowed just eight passing yards in their 2018 ACC title game meeting, but this is a much better quarterback than that championship-winning team faced back then.

"I thought a year ago he had a great year," Venables said. "You see more of the same. Very consistent, makes very few mistakes, great leader, tremendous feel in the pocket, patient, confident in his offensive line...can extend plays with his legs." 

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