Clemson held its first preseason scrimmage on Saturday morning at Death Valley in humid conditions under sunny skies, and defensively, the Tigers didn’t wilt.
Well, not until the end.
“I thought the defense really was very solid and consistent all day, just didn’t like how we finished on the goal line,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said afterward. “Didn’t think they finished well. They were a little undisciplined and had some penalties down there offside.”
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables liked what he saw for the most part, as well, besides the lackluster finish.
“Our guys came ready to perform,” Venables said. “Didn’t finish as well as you wanted them to, but otherwise it was good.”
With the exception of the goal-line situational work at the end of the scrimmage, and some short-yardage situations, Clemson’s defensive line ruled the day.
“I thought our defensive line, first group, really showed up,” Venables said.
Clelin Ferrell returned to the field after missing three days due to the concussion protocol and was the top tackler on the day with six, including three tackles for losss, one of which was a sack. Junior defensive end Austin Bryant was one of the standouts as he recorded four tackles and a couple of sacks.
Christian Wilkins had five tackles, including two tackles for loss early in the scrimmage. Dexter Lawrence added four tackles.
“Clelin has looked good. Christian (Wilkins) has looked good,” Venables said. “Austin Bryant is better than he’s ever been. He’s just got to line up onsides when he’s supposed to.”
Sophomore linebacker Tre Lamar also impressed Venables, who called him “noticeably better.”
Several other veterans have pleased Venables with their progress thus far in fall camp, as well.
“I like how Van (Smith) and (Tanner) Muse have done,” Venables said. “The corners have looked good at times, and other times not so good. But Ryan Carter is a versatile guy, Dorian O’Daniel has done well.”
Freshman cornerback A.J. Terrell caught Venables’ attention at times during the scrimmage, too.
“I saw AJ show up a time or two,” Venables said. “Sometimes that field corner, if you don’t notice them it’s a good thing. The boundary corner gets a little more action, and I saw AJ make a few good plays in there. He had good positioning in there, and he’s done well.”
Scrimmages provide plenty of tape for coaches to evaluate as they try to determine who is ready to play this fall, and Venables is excited to get to work in the film room as fall camp rolls on.
“Can’t wait to evaluate the tape,” Venables said. “The guys played hard, played tough. Part of the scrimmage (we played well) and other parts we didn’t perform very well. So, we’ve got a ton to work on and a lot to improve at fundamentally, but it’s been a good camp to this point.”
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