By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- If I could use one word to describe Clemson’s secondary this year it would be young. Although the Tigers first string is experienced at both the safety and cornerback positions, the depth behind the starters is full of talented yet inexperienced players.
Secondary coach Charlie Harbison was available to speak with members of the media Tuesday after Coach Swinney’s press conference and answered questions about the offense ran by the Troy Trojans and how his secondary will be challenged early this Saturday at 3:30 PM.
“Playing a spread offense like Troy’s in the first week is absolutely a great challenge for our secondary,” Harbison said. “The fact that they spread the ball out, we’ve got to do a good job of matching up, contesting the throw, and keeping them on the ground. We’ve got to be able to recognize the formations that they’re playing.”
Robert Smith, a freshman safety is listed on Clemson’s depth chart as part of the Tiger’s second team defense, how definite is this depth chart?
“Well what we do is rotate kids in and out,” Harbison said. “With our kids, the question of whether they play or not will be up to them. If we feel good about the kid, right now we have a rotation but sometimes we can use anybody for practice purposes and as we get ready for each game we’ve got to have two deep to roll with, and if he (Robert Smith) falls into that two deep so be it, if he doesn’t fall into it then he won’t.”
According to Harbison, Smith had a great camp however still has a long way to go. Harbison believes that Smith controls his own destiny as far as playing time goes, and if he and Coach Steele feel good about him and feel like he could go out on the field and make plays then he’ll see the field.
Another player that Harbison believes will be able to contribute to the Tiger’s defense this fall is safety Jonathan Meeks, a player who Head Coach Dabo Swinney believes has made great strides in improving his game throughout the offseason and fall camp.
“Well number one, with his playing time last year he’s older,” Harbison said. “He’s playing better now and with poise. Also when you understand the defense and this system, you get more confident and that’s what he’s playing with. I’m very happy with Meeks.”
Although starting safeties Meeks and Rashard Hall are fairly proven guys, after playing a substantial amount last season, their backups Carlton Lewis and Robert Smith are unknowns. How confident is Harbison in his depth at this particular position?
“This is how I look at it,” Harbison said. “Some of the younger guys that didn’t get a lot of playing experience like Lewis and freshmen like Smith it’s like a week to week thing, a learn on the job training. With Lewis, he has more knowledge of the defense from being here longer, but when it comes time to take a snap we’ll put someone on the field that we can win with.”