By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush
Clemson defensive tackles coach Dan Brooks knows the ins and outs of life in the Southeastern Conference. He has spent time at Florida and Tennessee, giving him an insider’s perspective of the league running college football at the present time.
It is this perspective that qualifies Brooks to critique his current team and evaluate how it matches up with some of the SEC’s best squads. The Atlantic Coast Conference’s reputation has taken a beating in the public eye for a long time, but Brooks says Clemson has what it takes to shed any labels associated with its league.
One way the Tigers can do it is by beating the SEC opponents that litter the schedule every year. Last season, Clemson picked up two wins in three games against its SEC foes, including a thrilling win over LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. In 2013, the Tigers’ schedule is bookended by SEC teams in Georgia and South Carolina, and Brooks believes the team is more than capable of handling itself.
“I don’t think our football team is scared to play anybody,” Brooks said when discussing his team’s readiness to face the Bulldogs to open the season.
Beginning a quest for a championship with such a difficult opponent has its advantages and disadvantages. According to Brooks, it can create a sense of awareness and focus among the players as they prepare.
“It tells them they’d better be ready right out of the gate,” he said. “We don’t get any preseason scrimmages like high school or the NFL or any of that. We have to go and show up on national TV.”
As the defensive tackles coach, Brooks knows his position group will be key in establishing the line of scrimmage against the Bulldogs. When in the SEC, Brooks says, playing well in the trenches is key to competing.
Another factor in the SEC’s rise to prominence is leadership at quarterback. Brooks has been around some top-notch leaders at the position, including Peyton Manning and Tee Martin.
Brooks sees some similarities between those former Volunteers and Tajh Boyd, which is why he sees great things in Clemson’s future this season.
“You’re never going to be a great team without that good quarterback,” he said. “You may be a good team, but if you’ve got a quarterback, it gives you a chance.”
For some, the Tigers come into their matchup with Georgia as automatic underdogs due to perception. Brooks says perception can be deceiving because of how the Tigers have crafted themselves in the image of an SEC team. Throughout Dabo Swinney’s tenure, there has been a concerted effort to make the program look like some of its competitors in the SEC.
“They want to crow about how they’re the best football in the country,” Brooks said. “It’s hard for us to argue because they’ve won the national championship as many times as they have.”
This season, Brooks and the rest of the Clemson staff hope to end the streak of national titles the SEC has won. But they won’t get there until they start by beating a pair of those teams in the regular season first.