Veteran linebackers Dorian O’Daniel and Kendall Joseph know what it takes to win and to lead a successful defense. This year they are looking to take their game to a new level and leave their mark on the Clemson program at the same time.
In 2014, when O’Daniel, a redshirt freshman at the time, and Joseph, a freshman, were just beginning their careers at Clemson, the Tigers’ defense finished the season at the top of 11 defensive statistical categories, including total defense. The linebackers learned not only how to play good defense but also witnessed leadership in action in the form of Ben Boulware, Stephone Anthony and Spencer Shuey.
“Learning from Ben, Stephone Anthony, Spencer Shuey, and those guys I know what it takes and I know how hard to work” said O’Daniel. “I hope I can shed some light on the young guy and tell them the importance of how details matter.”
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables says this year’s Tigers often watch film of that 2014 unit to see what a top defensive unit looks like and what it takes to reach that level. For the Clemson defense to get there, O’Daniel and Joseph need to increase their roles on and off the field.
O’Daniel played in all 15 games last season while contributing with 60 tackles. This season his role will be increased and his coverage skills have drastically improved.
Joseph led the defending national champions in tackles-for-loss last season with 13.5 and finished second in tackles with 124. Throughout the off-season the now redshirt junior has taken command of the defensive unit growing his knowledge of the playbook.
“I have a better understanding of the defense” said Joseph. “I had to learn what guys at the boundary are doing and now I know what the D-Line is doing, the safeties, and I know what everybody is doing.”
O’Daniel is ready to put his mark on the Clemson program, receiving high praise from coaches and fellow teammates throughout camp. A fifth-year senior, he knows that it is now or never.
“I am looking to put a statement on my legacy here at Clemson” he said.
O’Daniel has put in his time, as he continued, “I’ve been patient, I’ve earned my stripes and I am ready to let it loose.”
The hunger of the Clemson defense is evident in the voices of its leaders. Hunger to not only hit somebody in a different uniform, but a desire to prove their worth as a top-rated defense.
The Tigers’ first opportunity to unleash their potential is Saturday (noon) against Kent State in Death Valley. While the Golden Flashers are not a premier opponent, Clemson’s defense finally gets a chance to showcase their talent on the field after a long off-season.
“I’m super excited it’s been a while since we got to do that I’m anxious to get out there in front of the fans and have some fun” said Joseph.
O’Daniel and Jospeh get to showcase their skillsets on Saturday in front of 81,500 in Death Valley. Football is a game that is dependent on leadership and O’Daniel and Joseph embrace their roles as leader and that will be evident on the field this sesason.