Clemson’s defense is off to an outstanding start and in its three wins over top-15 opponents the second-ranked Tigers established themselves as one of the premier units in the country.
The Clemson defense ranks in the top 12 nationally in three categories and is the top 25 in five others.
The Tigers (5-0, 3-0 ACC) have also played arguably the toughest schedule through five games as well between Auburn, Louisville, and Virginia Tech, all of which put up significant numbers offensively with the exception of the Clemson game.
Opponents are averaging 10.8 points per game, managing 250.0 yards and rushing for 92.0 yards. Some says this year’s defense could be as good as the 2014 unit, which led the nation in total defense (260.8 ypg) and 10 other defensive categories.
“Stephon (Anthony) and them had the number one defense back in the day and we really want to live up to our predecessors,” linebacker Tre Lamar said.
Thus far the 2017 team has nearly identical numbers when compare to the 2014 defense.
In 2014, they gave up 16.7 points per game this season they have allowed 10.8, in 2014 they allowed 260.8 yards per game compared to 250 this season, 2014 allowed 4.01 yards per game compared to 3.87 this season, and 2014 held opponents to .274 on third down compared to .284 this season.
The amount of talent on the two units is very similar as well. That team included a stout defensive front of NFL talent in Grady Jarrett, D.J. Reader, Vic Beasley, and Shaq Lawson compared to Austin Bryant, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, and Clelin Ferrell this year.
Lamar’s role model on that defense was Anthony’s in 2014. Anthony is currently playing in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins.
Lamar has contributed to the defense’s success in a big way. He has 23 tackles thus far including a tackle for loss and a sack, three quarterback pressures and three special teams tackles.
The sophomore’s numbers are not the only reason this defense strives to match the 2014 team’s numbers.
“Not just that they had the number one defense but their work ethic. That grind they had throughout the season that was worthy of being number one,” he said. “We want to be kind of like them.”
Clemson, who will host Wake Forest on Saturday in Death Valley, will need that sustained grind in order to match their predecessors. There is a lot of season left to be played and only time will tell if this unit will mimic the success of that 2014 team or maybe be better.