Clemson has lot of work to do defensively

Clemson has lot of work to do defensively


Clemson has lot of work to do defensively


By Will Vandervort.

Last year, no one in the country was better defensively than the Clemson Tigers. Not only did the Tigers lead the nation in total defense (260.8 yards per game), but they also led the nation in 10 other defensive categories, including pass efficiency defense, tackles for loss and fewest yards allowed per play.

But Clemson lost eight starters from that unit and three of those players—Vic Beasley, Stephone Anthony and Grady Jarrett—are expected to be selected in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft which begins this Thursday.

So the biggest question everyone seems to have in regards to Clemson’s aspirations for 2015, is how good will the defense be with so many key losses? After 15 spring practices, head coach Dabo Swinney thinks they will be just fine.

“Well, our first group, you’re not going to notice a big difference from the way we finished the year,” he said earlier this week. “The difference in our defense is the depth, and not the talented depth, but just the experience.

“Last year we were just so experienced and our second team was as good as our first team, whereas this year, our first group is really, really good.”

That first group is expected to be led by defensive end Shaq Lawson and defensive tackles D.J. Reader and Carlos Watkins up front. At linebacker B.J. Goodson and Ben Boulware bring back a lot of playing experience, while the secondary is full of talent led by safety Jayron Kearse and cornerback Mackensie Alexander.

“I mean, there is not a huge difference between Shaq Lawson and Vic Beasley. Shaq is going to bring some certain things to the table that Vic didn’t. So there are a lot of positives,” Swinney said. “DJ Reader, Carlos Watkins, Kevin Dodd, Ben Boulware, B.J. Goodson, and our secondary is going to be as good as it’s been since we’ve been here. So the first group is very, very solid.

“But the biggest difference for us is we just don’t have the experienced depth. We have talented depth, but it’s very inexperienced, and that’s going to be the key to our defense.”

That inexperienced showed up in the spring game. With the teams split up to make a more competitive game overall, guys like Lawson, Reader, Watkins, Kearse, Boulware and Alexander showed out individually, but as a whole the defenses on both the Orange and the White side struggled.

Overall, they yielded 59 points and 738 total yards. The two offenses combined for 20 plays of 15 or more yards in the game, including four plays that were 40 or more yards.

“First of all, we’ve got to get a little lucky and hope that we can kind of keep those front-line guys healthy, but how quickly we can develop the young talent that we have and get them game ready to where they can help us out,” Swinney said. “I like where we are from a defensive standpoint personnel-wise. We’ve just have a lot of work to do to get some guys ready to play.”


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