With new guys like Dexter Lawrence and Clelin Ferrell on the defensive line, Kendall Joseph starting at middle linebacker and guys like Van Smith and Marcus Edmond in the secondary, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney knew having just four days to prepare for Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense was not going to be enough time.
He, along with Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, knew they needed a few more days to get it down so they could learn their keys and their assignments. So during training camp, Swinney allowed his defense to take three days out of preparing for the season so they could work on the Yellow Jackets’ triple option.
It was a good idea.
The Tigers used those three extra days, plus the four they had this past week to stonewall the Yellow Jackets’ running game. Led by its defensive line, Clemson held the ‘Jackets to 95 yards on 38 carries while cruising to a 26-7 victory at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta.
“That’s just great coaching on their part,” Clemson linebacker Boulware said afterwards.
Boulware, along with several other defensive players, said they felt confident about stopping Georgia Tech (3-1, 1-1 ACC) as they do on any opponent on a normal game week.
“That is really because of the three days we had during fall camp,” Boulware said. “We retained a lot of that information and it showed.”
Boulware said having the extra three days was very necessary because if they only had the previous four to prepare, “Then we probably would have played like crap.”
However, Clemson (4-0, 1-0) did not play that way. Instead, it limited the Yellow Jackets to 2.5 yards per carry and took quarterback Justin Thomas out of the game. Thomas was swallowed by the Tigers’ defensive front all night, as it constantly pushed the offensive line right into Thomas.
The dive play was a non-factor in the game, and Thomas was trying to pitch the ball even when he should not have at times because he was getting so beat up.
Thomas finished the game with minus-25 yards rushing on 10 carries. He was also ineffective throwing the ball, completing just four of the 13 passes he threw for 29 yards.
“It’s really just a simple game plan,” Boulware said. The SAM and MIKE positions really do the same thing. If your key does this, then you do that. If you key does that, then you do this. So it is a really simple game plan or a lot more simple than most offenses
“You really just have to be a quick thinker.”
You also have to have a very good defensive line, and so far after four weeks there is no arguing how good Clemson’ defensive front has been. Thomas truly never had a chance.
“That’s our D-Line. Me, Kendall and Dorian did not do nothing,” Boulware said. “That’s all Carlos (Watkins), Christian, Dexter and Scott (Pagano) and all of those guys. They are probably the main reason why we played so well tonight.
“A lot of the times the ball did not get past them because they were just engulfing everything. It’s because of them.”