After five games, No. 2 Clemson’s defense is on pace to be one of the best in program history. The Tigers are limiting opponents to 10.8 yards per game thus far, and a slim 250.0 yards per game.
A week ago, the Tigers held an explosive Virginia Tech offense to just 17 points 14 of which came in the fourth quarter. Clemson also forced three turnovers with a pair of interceptions and a fumble recovery.
The man leading the charge is Dorian O’Daniel. The graduate linebacker leads the Tigers in several statistical categories and is the catalyst for the defense.
O’Daniel is having the best year of his career and is taking advantage of every second of it. He is also ready for the unique challenge presented by an improved Wake Forest team.
As a fifth-year player who is not pursuing a graduate degree O’Daniel has more time on his hands to focus on his opponents and it is paying off. He takes advantage of his extra time, as he takes a pair of online courses and one physical class to make the most of his time.
“Being a graduate and me not pursuing a masters gives me a lot more time to prepare.” said O’Daniel. “The time I would have spent taking classes, I’m using that time to come into the stadium, take care of my body, watch extra film, study more and it’s worth it.”
The extra preparation is paying off, O’Daniel leads the Tigers in tackles with 42, has a pair of interceptions for touchdowns and recovered a fumble last Saturday night at Virginia Tech.
O’Daniel’s coverage ability has drastically improved. That coupled with his instincts to stop the run earned him National Defensive Player of the Week as well as ACC Linebacker of the Week honors.
The strongside linebacker recognizes his increased profile on the national stage.
“I get a lot more notoriety in the media, from the coaches, and on social media” he said. “It’s definitely a lot different than what I’m used to as far as my time here at Clemson.”
O’Daniel is looking forward to facing an improved Wake Forest team for homecoming on Saturday. The Demon Deacons have a 4-1 record coming off of a heartbreaking loss to Florida State a week ago.