2:08 PM ET
  • Andrea AdelsonESPN Senior Writer

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    • ACC reporter.
    • Joined ESPN.com in 2010.
    • Graduate of the University of Florida.

NEW ORLEANS -- Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has moonlighted as the team's scout team quarterback over the years, and he was pressed into duty again to portray Heisman winner Joe Burrow during practice leading up to Monday's showdown with LSU.

It's not because his scout team alter ego, "Jimmy Greenbeans," wanted extra reps ahead of the College Football Playoff National Championship (8 p.m. ET Monday, ESPN/ESPN App). It's because the usual scout team quarterback, Patrick McClure, hurt his ankle while celebrating Travis Etienne's game-winning touchdown against Ohio State in the CFP semifinals at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.

McClure was on the sideline watching as Etienne took a pass from Trevor Lawrence and scored a 34-yard touchdown to go up 29-23 with 1:49 remaining.

"It was a freak accident," said McClure, who had portrayed Justin Fields in practice leading up to the semifinals. "I was skipping, jumping, fist-pumping down the sideline when he scored and somebody hit me down my left-hand side while I was skipping.

"I fell on it funny. It was snap, crackle, pop. I looked down and it was nasty. It was a freak thing."

After Clemson returned home from Arizona, McClure was put on bed rest for a week and was unable to attend practice. Dating to the 2016 season, if not earlier, Venables has combined with the scout team quarterback to give his defense the best possible looks as it prepares for opponents.

McClure handled most of the reps during game week preparation this season, but Venables was always involved as a second option. He'd call on his "Jimmy Greenbeans" persona to come in and run plays when he wanted the tempo to be faster, or slower, or to give his defense a more precise look.

"There's no system to it," McClure said. "It's just whenever he sees something, he wants to jump in and do it."

With McClure out, all the scout team reps fell to Venables as the Tigers worked to prepare for LSU's Burrow.

Venables said he approached it the same way he always does when he goes behind center. "You're not going to emulate [Burrow]," Venables said. "Good luck."

"Greenbeans does not change his quarterback style, but he's very good at stressing you out and trying to create game environments," Clemson linebacker James Skalski said. "People don't understand he can put one on the money every now and then. He'll back-shoulder a ball, and everyone looks around and is like, 'That was a good throw.' Mentally, it's not about the throws."

McClure said Venables can get a better look at the defense's alignment when he is watching from a quarterback's perspective.

"The one thing he enjoys about doing the quarterback position is just standing right behind me seeing where everybody's at," McClure said. "And when [Venables is] playing quarterback, he can see it also, seeing if everybody's in the right position."

There had been speculation that Clemson early enrollee D.J. Uiagalelei, the No. 1-ranked quarterback in the 2020 class, would play Burrow in practice after he told reporters in late December that coach Dabo Swinney mentioned it during Fiesta Bowl preparation.

However, by the time Uiagalelei and other enrollee freshmen arrived on campus, there was not enough time to get them involved with the scout team. Instead, Uiagalelei was more focused on watching the Clemson offense and trying to learn what would be asked of him in spring practice.

So with Venables taking charge, Clemson's defenders believe they got the best possible look to prepare for Burrow.

"As always, he knows where the holes are and what he wants us to do," safety Tanner Muse said. "He'll be like, 'Yeah, I really carved y'all up yesterday, didn't I?' He studies so much, he knows all of Burrow's mannerisms, so he has everything but the athletic ability."

McClure, who is still on crutches, opted to hold off on ankle surgery so he could be with his teammates for the national championship game. His ankle is in a hard cast and he is still in significant pain, but he couldn't miss the game -- or watch how Venables measured up as the full-time scout team quarterback.

"Coach V does such a great job," McClure said. "I know that defense is prepared and had a good week of practice."


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