To really no one’s surprise, the group that came out and dominated Saturday’s scrimmage for the defending national champions was its defensive line.
Led by defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, Clemson’s defense tallied seven sacks and 14 tackles for a loss as it controlled the scrimmage inside Death Valley for the most part.
Ferrell was the top tackler on the day with six, including three tackles for loss, one of which was a sack. Bryant had four tackles, including two sacks.
Defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence also got into the act. Wilkins had five tackles, including two tackles behind the line early in the scrimmage, while Lawrence added four tackles.
“I thought our defensive line, the first group, really showed up,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said afterward. “That was probably the main group.”
The Tigers’ first team-defense, for the most part, had its way with the first-team offense. Kelly Bryant and company struggled to move the ball with any real consistency and failed to get into any kind of rhythm. However, the offense did win a lot of the short yardage and goal line battles, which occurred at the end of the scrimmage.
“I did not see any glaring big issues,” Venables said about his defense. “We have to clean up some tackling. We have to have better positioning at times. We have to leverage the ball better. Short yardage, we can’t get knocked back. There was nothing where this guy can’t be blocked and this guy had three picks, nothing like that.”
Veteran players doing their jobs. Venables says he has been pleased with what he has seen from his veteran players after nine practices.
“Clelin has looked good. Christian has looked good,” he said. “Austin Bryant is better than he has ever been, though he has to line up onside when he is supposed to. Tre Lamar has been noticeably better. I like how Van (Smith) and (Tanner) Muse have done. The corners have looked good at times and other times not so good. Ryan Carter is a versatile guy and Dorian O’Daniel has done well.”
Robinson is picking up steam. Clemson defensive tackle Jabril Robison put on 10 pounds over the summer and has his weight up to 275 pounds. Though he is still small compared to Wilkins (297) and Lawrence (337), the junior is putting himself in position to help the defense this coming fall.
“He is working,” Venables said. “He is better than he has been and hopefully that will continue. He is active. He is hard to block and he does not stay blocked. He has been solid.”
Young corners are showing up. With Clemson having so much depth at the cornerback positions, some wondered how freshmen A.J. Terrell and LeAnthony Williams would do it camp. So far so good.
Venables said Terrell caught his eyes on a couple of plays in Saturday’s scrimmage, while Williams stayed off the radar at the field corner position.
“I saw A.J. show up a time or two,” Venables said. “Sometimes that field corner, if you don’t notice them, is a good thing. The boundary corner gets a little more action and I saw A.J. make a few more plays and had good positioning. He has done well.
“LeAnthony has looked good at different times as well throughout camp, but today I did notice A.J. a few plays.”
Clemson deep at linebacker. Throughout camp, Venables and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney have spoken highly about starting linebackers like Tre Lamar, Kendall Joseph and Dorian O’Daniel. But those three are not the only ones standing out in camp.
Chad Smith, Shaq Smith and James Skalski, have also played well so far in camp. Meaning the Tigers are as deep at linebacker, with quality talent, than they have been in quite a while.
“It has been a pretty good camp,” Venables said. “We had a few guys banged up these last few days, but we have had a pretty good camp. I like where our depth is right now. It is good.”
Have you ordered the 2017 Clemson season preview ‘Best is the Standard’ from the staff that covers Clemson football 365 days a year? Order yours today to make sure you get a copy!