By Will Vandervort
Clemson defensive tackles coach Dan Brooks has thrown out a name from the past that he hopes will inspire, not only the players he is responsible for, but the defense as a whole this year.
In 1972, the Miami Dolphins became the first and only team to go undefeated and win a Super Bowl. Those Dolphins were led by a strong running game behind running backs Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris—the first pair of running backs to go over 1,000 yards each in the same season—and a great passing game thanks to quarterbacks Bob Griese and Earl Morrall, and wide receiver Paul Warfield.
But because Miami’s impressive offense received so much publicity—it was the NFL’s best that year—the defense started calling itself the “No-Name Defense,” though they were led by All-Pro players like linebacker Nick Buoniconti, end Bill Stanfill, tackle Manny Fernandez, and safeties Dick Anderson and Jake Scott.
Like the ’72 Dolphins, when people first talk about eighth-ranked Clemson, it always starts with the offense, which has high-powered quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receivers like Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and Charone Peake. The defense is mentioned, but it only gets mentioned as a collective group, and sometimes not in a positive light.
Then there is the defense just 130 miles down the road in Columbia that seems to, and deservedly so, get all of the attention. Talk about seventh-ranked South Carolina always starts with All-World defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who is considered the best defensive player in the country thanks to his 35 ½ tackles for loss and 21 sacks the last two seasons.
“Coach Brooks has been throwing it around,” Clemson defensive tackle DeShawn Williams said following Wednesday’s practice. “We have told him we wanted our names on our jersey because that’s how people are going to know us, but he was like, ‘Nobody knows our name. It is all about those guys at South Carolina.’
“(College football fans) know their names, but no one knows our names so we are going to go out there and make our presence known. We are going to work hard and do what we have to do. We have a great coach and we just want to make our name known.”
To do that, they’ll have to play with the same level of intensity the ’72 Dolphins played with. The Tigers will start off with a good test when No. 5 Georgia comes to town with its potentially All-American quarterback in Aaron Murray and its potentially All-American running back in Todd Gurley.
Injury report. Defensive back Garry Peters missed practice with an ankle injury. He is supposed to be back to work on Thursday.
Defensive back Mackensie Alexander practiced for a little while before sitting out with a groin injury. Wide receiver Martavis Bryant also missed practice due to a groin injury, as did freshman wideout Mike Williams. Wide receiver Adam Humphries still has a hamstring injury.
Freshman wide receiver T.J. Green had an MRI to exam the extent of an injured knee from Tuesday’s practice. More will be known about his status on Thursday, but Swinney said after practice Wednesday that it did not look good and that it was worse than they originally thought on Tuesday.
Reaching his Peake. One player Swinney singled out after practice was wide receiver Charone Peake, who will be looked upon to help replace the production of record-setting wideout DeAndre Hopkins.
The first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft led the Tigers with 82 catches for a school-record 1,405 yards and an ACC-record 18 touchdown receptions last season. Obviously, those will be big shoes to fill. But Swinney feels Peake is up for the challenge.
“Charone had a great spring, and he’s had a great camp, especially the last couple days,” Swinney said. “Adam Humphries has been out and Martavis Bryant was out today, so Charone has really been awesome. He’s cross-training at our ‘5’-man and ‘9’-man, and he’ll play both all year.
“I’m just really, really pleased with where he is right now. He’s going to have a great year.”
Peake caught 25 passes for 172 yards a season ago, and said he is well aware of the opportunity he and his fellow receivers will have this fall.
“With Nuk gone, that’s a lot of yards and touchdowns gone,” the junior said. “But I feel like we’ve got a complete receiving corps, and we’ll be able to come back and put those yards back together.”