By Heath Bradley.
TheClemsonInsider.com breaks down the keys to success for the 2012 defense. Improved tackling is the biggest key to success for the Clemson defense.
Tackling, and tackling at first contact will be the #1 key to success for the Clemson defense in 2012. When Clemson was successful at tackling the ball carrier at first contact in 2011, is when they were most successful as a team. In two matchups versus Virginia Tech in 2011, the Clemson defense was dominant, holding Virginia Tech to 13 total points, including only 3 points in a 23-3 Clemson Victory in Lane Stadium.
When Clemson struggled on defense, it was due to giving up the big play. This was at times caused by the inability to bring down the ball carrier with first contact. While the goal is to always bring the ball carrier down at first contact, it is not always possible. The real goal should be to limit the amount of times that a tackle is broken and a ball carrier is able to get valuable yards after contact. These yards after contact often lead to first downs, big plays, and even touchdowns. All which can completely stop any momentum a defense may have gained throughout a drive, or even a game. Unfortunately, at times in 2011, broken tackles led to big plays for opponents offenses. Not only broken tackles, but also missed tackles; which can occur when a player takes the wrong angle or when a player attempts to tackle the ball carrier using incorrect form, led to the defense allowing a big play.
Tackling, while it may seem simple, is very complex. It will be important for Clemson to get back to the basics, focusing on the tiny elements that make players better tacklers. Brent Venables seems to have put a new emphasis on the basic, working the defense during spring practice to become better tacklers, not only in the trenches, but more importantly, in space. With so many teams transitioning to spread offenses, the ability to tackle in space is extremely important. One missed tackle in space can easily lead to a touchdown for the opponent with the speed of today’s players. This is why it is important to be a sound tackling team, once you become sound in the basics, you can focus in and master the new defensive scheme.
If the Clemson defense can improve their tackling at the point of attack, and also in space in 2012, their consistency will be dramatically better. When Clemson was dominant in 2011, the defense was playing at a high level. If the defense can become more consistent, they have the chance to be a dominant force in 2012. If the offense and defense can both click week in and week out and play at a consistently high level, the chance for another championship season for Clemson is very likely.