By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
GREENSBORO – Spencer Shuey is a bright young man. He knows what buttered Clemson’s bread last season as the Tigers ran off an 11-2 record, which included a victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Clemson’s offense was one of the best in the county in 2012 as the Tigers averaged 41 points and 517 yards a game last year to lead the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“It was definitely an offensive team last year,” he said to the media Sunday at as the Atlantic Coast Conference hosted its Annual Football Kickoff at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, N.C.
But by the end of the year, the defense started to come around and held its own. The Tigers gave up just 102 yards a game on the ground the last six weeks of the season and recorded 27 of their 34 sacks during that span. The defense played well enough in games against Wake Forest, Duke, Maryland and Virginia Tech to win without much offense, though they had plenty.
In fact, the defense probably could be given credit for the win over Virginia Tech after intercepting quarterback Logan Thomas three times and scoring one touchdown. Also, it was Shuey’s tackle of a Georgia Tech running back for a safety that keyed Clemson’s win over the Yellow Jackets.
Clemson’s defense also played a big role in the victory over LSU as it held those Tigers to 218 total yards and to 99 rushing yards.
All of that improvement has Shuey excited about how the defense can take that next step and balance what the offense is expected to do with quarterback Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and four starters on the offensive line back.
“It is the responsibility of the defense this year to try and hold it down and put our offense in the best position as possible. But at the end of the day we are still a team and it is not about offense, defense or anything like that,” he said. “It is not one thing that makes or breaks a game or a season. We are going to go out and do the best we can on both sides of the ball to help us win.”
Making a name. Shuey says freshman defensive back MacKensie Alexander appears to be the real thing. The senior linebacker says the corner has been nothing put impressive during the squads seven-on-seven workouts this summer.
“He has been great,” Shuey said. “He has fit in well with us. He is extremely physical and quick. We are definitely hoping he is able to grasp the concept of camp and can step in and grab that role at such a young age.
“A lot of the older guys in the secondary have definitely taken him under their wings and have coached him up. He is very coachable. He is extremely quick. Even if he makes a mistake, his closing-speed and make-up speed is unbelievable. He is not a huge guy. He is not very big, but he plays like he is. He is definitely confident in himself and confident in his ability. He plays extremely physical and fast.”
Darius Robinson & NCAA. When cornerback Darius Robinson and five other current college football players were added as plaintiffs Thursday to a high-profile anti-trust lawsuit that claims the NCAA owes billions of dollars to former players for allowing their likenesses to be used without compensation, Robinson’s Clemson’s teammates were not surprised by the news.
“He definitely speaks up when he needs to,” Shuey said.
Robinson’s issues with the NCAA came up after he saw his likeness in the latest EA Sports NCAA ’14 Football game which came out earlier this month. That stemmed from a previous instant where the university sent out an email this past spring to all the student athletes not to advertise their involvement with 5linx – who he sold phone plans and cell phones for.
Compliance at Clemson said any athlete involved could lose their eligibility due to NCAA rules if they continued. So since he can’t work because it is almost impossible for him to have a real job as a student athlete due to time restraint, Robinson is hoping to make a point by joining the lawsuit.
“He is passionate about the things he cares about, and obviously this is important to him,” Shuey said. “This is one of those things and he pursued it and we wish him the best.”
Shuey says Robinson being involved in the lawsuit does not concern the team and he says it has not been nor will it be a distraction. He says Robinson is one of the more popular guys in the locker room and he does a good job keeping his own affairs separated from the team.
He says Robinson is a team-guy.
“He is pretty vocal when he needs to be,” Shuey said. “He will have fun with you, but when it is time to work; he will definitely step up and be a leader.”