O’Daniel is giving it all he has

O’Daniel is giving it all he has


O’Daniel is giving it all he has


By Will Vandervort.

The word around the Clemson football program is that Dorian O’Daniel has a dark side to him.

“During hitting drills, I just get in this mood I guess and I will not necessarily laugh or smile too much. It is just all about the game,” the linebacker said. “I don’t trash talk. If I make a big play, I will just get up and go about my business like nothing happened.”

A lot happened for O’Daniel last year. After being redshirted in 2013, he made his way onto the football field last season by having a “whatever it takes” mentality. Besides playing as a reserve linebacker he was also the Tigers’ top special teams tackler, recording 13 combined on both punt and kickoff coverages.

And though he got very few snaps for much of the year, when he got his opportunities he made the most of them, especially at Georgia Tech. After B.J. Goodson got hurt that afternoon in Atlanta, O’Daniel got 41 snaps from the strongside position and tallied a career-high 10 tackles, including one sack.

“It was a confidence booster,” he said. “Even though we lost all my teammates came up to me and were telling what a good game and how I was giving it my all and that ‘you got my respect.’ They don’t know, but that meant a lot.

“That was such a confidence booster. It makes you take a step back and say, ‘I got this. The guys trust me.’ I just have to work on that.”

O’Daniel’s performance against the Yellow Jackets earned him a start the next week against Georgia State as he tallied five more tackles in only 21 snaps.

“After (the Georgia Tech) game, it changed my mindset,” the redshirt sophomore said. “I didn’t really get that many more snaps after that game, but that following week I started to prepare each week as if I was the starter. After that I prepared as if I was the starter coming back.

“Going into the off-season and spring, I knew I needed to take the necessary steps to do so.”

That’s beginning to pay off for O’Daniel, who is emerging as the potential starter at strongside linebacker, while also taking reps as the nickel back, too.

“He is so much further along mentally than he was a year ago,” Clemson defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Venables said. “He has a lot more confidence. He is sure of himself. It’s night and day from where he was.”

Part of that improvement comes from understanding his coach a little more. O’Daniel admitted that playing for Venables can be a little tough at times.

“He can be intense and he is a perfectionist, but that is what you want in a coach,” the linebacker said. “You want a coach that is going to push you to the limits and is going to work you hard. By doing so it makes me mentally stronger.”

O’Daniel, who was rated as the No. 40 player in the nation coming out of high school, says the last two years have been very humbling experiences for him. He learned early on that he had a lot to learn and that he was going to have to work hard to earn a starting spot or playing time.

“I see every day when you see the recruits walking in and the freshmen and they are like, ‘Oh yeah, I am the man!’ They are just so confident, but I and some of the older guys just start laughing, ‘You have no idea what you are getting yourself into,’” O’Daniel said laughing. “It is definitely an adjustment and some make better ones than others.

“I think I did well. I took the coaching with a grain of salt and I knew what was expected of me.”

And now it has him in a position to start making more of a contribution.

“I definitely feel like this is a statement year for me,” O’Daniel said. “Just being behind a lot of guys and not getting too many reps last year and with so many opportunities opening up, I definitely feel like this is my time to establish myself and do what I can, make the sacrifices needed to get on the field and give it all I have.”



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