Defense has been bright spot

NCAA Football-Clemson vs. Auburn_DP_2016-3110-XL

With so much talk about Clemson’s inconsistencies on offense, no one has really talked about the job the third-ranked Tigers have done on defense the first two weeks.

Clemson held Auburn to 262 total yards to open the season, and then slowed down a Troy offense that is known to put up big numbers to 24 points and just 386 total yards. In the process, the Tigers have totaled 21 tackles for loss, five sacks and have forced six turnovers.

From the middle of the second quarter until the last half of the fourth quarter, Troy had just 77 total yards on eight possessions. The first five possession of the second half netted one first down and 11 total yards.

“The disappointing thing with some of the funky stuff we have gotten into with some inconsistency, it has overshadowed the real positives that we have had,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.

Swinney singled out Christian Wilkins as one the positives. The defensive lineman, who has played at defensive end and defensive tackle this year, already has 13 tackles in two games, to go along with three tackles for loss, one sack, three passes broken up and two quarterback pressures.

“He has played well. He has really played well,” Swinney said.

Freshman defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence has also played well. The 6-foot-5, 340-pound “Man Child” has 17 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, one pass broken up and one quarterback pressure.

Overall, Clemson’s front seven has played well. Last week, three linebackers—Jalen Williams, Dorian O’Daniel and Kendall Joseph, picked off passes, while Joseph has 21 tackles and five tackles from behind the line of scrimmage to go with his interception.

And though the Tigers are missing Austin Bryant due to his foot injury, guys like Richard Yeargin and Chris Register have recorded valuable playing time.

“We are fortunate. Then we have been able to get Yeargin some experience. We have gotten Register in there. (Clelin Ferrell) has played two games now and Jabril (Robinson) is still coming along and he is getting reps every day. So I feel good about (our defensive line),” Swinney said. “Dexter has played and (Albert) Huggins got sixteen or seventeen reps the other day. That is probably the most he has played. Carlos (Watkins) is playing well and (Scott) Pagano played well on Saturday.

“We are in a good spot with those guys. Hopefully, we can stay healthy and can continue to develop them. Then we get Austin back in the mix and he can really help us.”

Swinney said Bryant is more than likely to return when the Tigers host Louisville on Oct. 1. Clemson will host S.C. State this Saturday at Death Valley. The game is scheduled to kick off at 12:04 p.m.

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