Most recall Clemson’s game at Georgia Tech as a complete disaster. After losing starting quarterback Deshaun Watson to a knee injury followed by a tough 28-6 loss at Bobby Dodd Stadium, the Tigers wondered if anything else could have gone wrong.
But for Clemson linebacker Dorien O’Daniel it was a different story. Although heartbroken by their loss, O’Daniel’s memory of the 2014 game was far from disaster.
“That was my first real time of getting a lot of playing time. Although we lost the game, it was a real memorable game for me because I recorded my first college sack and just a big confidence booster going forward,” he said.
The junior vividly remembers the moment he became the next man up after watching starting linebacker B.J. Goodson taken out of the game due to an injury.
“I remember not practicing much that week because I was a backup and then B.J. Goodson going down around the second quarter of the game. I knew he was hurt because of the play before he came out,” O’Daniel said. “I could just see that he was hurting.
“I was so nervous and sure enough he came out and Coach (Brent) Venables came after me and was like ‘You’re up. You’re in.’ I was definitely nervous, but just paying attention, and maybe not getting the physical reps, but the mental reps in during that week really allowed me to play somewhat confident.”
Playing more snaps than anyone else on the defense against a Georgia Tech, O’Daniel has been able to share some of his expertise with the younger guys during practice this week.
“Going through game prep this week and talking to Jalen (Williams) about how they run the offense, what their quarterback will do when he is in the pocket, and just certain tendencies that I have picked up early on that I hold true. I have been sharing them with the younger guys so that they know what to expect,” the junior said.
Knowing the Yellow Jackets’ offense will be a different challenge than the others the Tigers have faced this season, O’Daniel hopes to balance out being a leader while also staying focused on his specific assignments.
“I mean I will lead as best as I can, but everyone has a role to play. I’m just focused on my assignment and what I can do to prevent them from scoring any points,” he said.
Having success against Tech’s triple-option offense, O’Daniel knows the importance of sticking with your assignments and understanding your key throughout game.
“That’s the biggest part of this game plan is trusting your key and understanding your role in the option. If the quarterback pitches it, keeps it, or if they give it on the dive you just really have to be locked in on your assignment and trust the next guy to do his job, “ O’Daniel said.