When Syracuse head coach Dino Babers looks at Clemson’s defense, he is amazed by what he sees.
There is a good reason for that. The second-ranked Tigers, who will play Babers’ Orange on Friday night in the Carrier Dome, have one of the country’s best defenses, a unit that does not allow anyone to move the football on a consistent basis.
It all starts with the defensive front. So far, no one has been able to block the Tigers’ front four which consists of defensive ends Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell and defensive tackles Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins.
The four have combined for 11 of Clemson’s 22 sacks and 18 of the team’s 47 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
“I think their front four is OMG,” Babers said during Wednesday’s ACC Coaches Teleconference.
But it is just not the defensive line that has Babers concerned. He says Clemson’s linebackers can run with anybody and that Dorian O’Daniel is a safety who can also play linebacker while Ryan Carter, Mark Fields and Trayvon Mullen are all shutdown corners.
Then there are safeties Tanner Muse, Isaiah Simmons, K’Von Wallace and Van Smith, guys his quarterback can’t see over.
“You look at it, there are no holes,” Babers said. “There are no weaknesses. It starts with fantastic athletes.”
Clemson ranks in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense (5th, 11.3), total defense (8th, 264.3), fewest yards per play allowed (7th, 4.1) and sacks (3rd, 22).
“They do an outstanding job in recruiting,” Babers said. “Obviously, Coach (Brent) Venables does a fantastic job with the defense. He’s got a lot of experience with spread teams from his Oklahoma background, being in the Big 12. I just think he puts a lot of fantastic athletes in the right spots and gets them to play at a high, feverish pitch.
“You put those combinations together and you’re going to have a national championship type defense, and that’s exactly what they have.”