By Gray Gardner.
Red-shirt junior offensive tackle Landon Walker is ready for the Tigers’ game versus Auburn. Walker said the game will show a lot about this football team – a team that is trying to maintain success throughout the course of the season.
“You know, some teams start out really good and end not as good and some teams they get up there and stay there all year,” Walker said. “That’s what we’re trying to build around here – to start out really well and maintain that and not have a lot of drop offs.”
Clemson is notorious for drop offs after hot starts. Walker reminded everyone of the Georgia Tech and Maryland games from a season ago. But winning at Auburn will be no small task Saturday night.
Auburn comes into the game ranked as high as 15th overall in the USA Today poll, partly due to their defense. The Tigers are 10th in the nation in sacks per game with 3.5. They also rank 14th in the nation in tackles for loss per game with 8.5.
Walker said he knew Auburn’s defensive front was going to be tough after reviewing film and from watching their game against Mississippi State last Thursday.
“They’re a good defensive front. I feel like we can prepare this week and do everything possible to get out there and do good against these guys but it’s gonna be definitely a step up from what we’ve had the last couple of weeks.”
There’s no doubt that there is a large differentiation in the level of talent on the defensive front between teams like North Texas and Presbyterian and a team like Auburn. Walker said that it won’t matter who previous opponents were come Saturday night.
“We don’t make the schedule, obviously. We just get out and play the games that are on the schedule,” Walker said. “We practice everyday against an extremely physical defensive front so it doesn’t matter what it’s like on Saturdays – we’re gonna come out and play the same no matter who the opponent is.”
“A game doesn’t necessarily get you ready for the next game,” he continued. “I feel like you get yourself ready through the week in preparation in practice. It’s not necessarily who you played the week before and what level you’re expecting the next week. It’s more of, ‘Did you prepare the week of the game and are you doing the things to get ready?’”
Clemson’s starting offensive line is yet to play more than a couple of offensive series together, a fact that has many Clemson fans worried going into Saturday night’s match up. Walker admitted that while this is true, it will be good for the team.
“We haven’t played a lot of crucial snaps together,” Walker said. “We haven’t got a whole game together where we can really get in there and dominate somebody. That’s something we can do Saturday.”
Last week Mississippi State proved that the zone run – Clemson’s bread and butter – can be successful against the Tigers. Clemson has shown a conservative hand on offense the past two weeks, so expect offensive coordinator Billy Napier to show more creativity in the team’s first big test on the road.
“I don’t really know what coach Napier has – he has a lot in his bag, you know. As far as what we practiced all camp, we didn’t bring everything out. I would say there’s more in the bag,” Walker said with a grin.
Walker said that Auburn’s smash mouth defense will play into Clemson’s favor on offense.
“It’s a good team for us to play against because they’re not gonna come blitz us a lot, they’re not gonna do things that make it hard to run the ball. They’re gonna line up and say beat us.”
The veteran lineman does not think intangibles – such as crowd noise – will be able to shake this Clemson team.
“I’m anxious to see how this team plays on the road. I feel like this team has a lot of composure and feel like we can stay composed on the road,” Walker said. “I feel confident that we can go into Auburn and I don’t feel like the crowd noise and all the other factors are gonna bother us.”
“Hopefully I’m right.”