Since the start of the 2016 season, no team in the country has produced more sacks than second-ranked Clemson.
In all, the Tigers have recorded 65 sacks, including 16 this year through the first three games, which is tied for the national lead.
“It is a combination of a lot of things,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Guys have worked really hard in preparation in the off-season, in film study, depth up front.”
It helps that those guys are also very talented. The Tigers, who host Boston College this Saturday, have one of the more talented defensive fronts in the country, which is led by All-American Christian Wilkins and ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Dexter Lawrence at defensive tackle. At defensive end there is Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, who tied a Clemson record with four sacks against Auburn on Sept. 9.
Then there are other guys who have come in played well, too, guys such as Jabril Robinson and Nyles Pinckney on the interior of the defensive line.
“It’s a mixture of how we pressure the quarterback,” Swinney said. “I think we had six different sacks last week by six different people. So it is not always the same guy.”
And it’s not always the defensive line. The defensive line has recorded 10 of the Tigers’ 16 sacks, but linebackers Dorian O’Daniel, Kendall Joseph and Tre Lamar have also been credited with sacks, while the Clemson secondary is doing its part by keeping wide receivers and tight ends covered up down the field.
“Sometimes it is the D-line. Sometimes it is the secondary, sometimes it is the linebackers, mixing it up and guys just taking pride in doing their job,” Swinney said. “I think it is also a credit to the play of our secondary. We have made the quarterbacks hold the ball with our coverage which has allowed some guys a little more opportunity to get there.”
Of Clemson’s 11 sacks against Auburn, at least half were credited to the coverage. But more than anything, the Tigers have been relentless on defense, whether they come with four guys or five, they are doing whatever they can to get to the quarterback and disrupted what he wants to do.
“Having a relentless mindset on defense,” Swinney said. “That’s what we have seen the first few weeks and that is what it takes if you are going to be a consistent defense week in and week out.”