Going into last season, there were many questions about how the secondary would replace two big, strong safeties with plenty of experience. Jayron Kearse and T.J. Green were as big and hard-hitting as any safety in college football, and it is tough to replace their type combination of size, speed and athleticism.
Luckily, the Tigers found answers at both safety spots with Jadar Johnson and Van Smith. Now Smith looks to take the reins as the head safety seeing as Johnson graduated after last year.
The rising junior had a coming-out party his sophomore season, notching 114 tackles, two interceptions as well as earning second-team All-ACC honors.
Smith can play a variety of positions, but defensive coordinator Brent Venables moved him back over to strong safety where he played as a freshman.
“That’s what I came in playing so it’s just getting back to normal,” Smith said.
While he had a very successful season last year, there is one main area of his game he looks to improve.
“Man coverage is the biggest thing,” said Smith. “I’ve got my tackling down and everything coming out here.”
While Smith has the most playing experience at the safety position, he said everybody in the secondary is stepping up and taking Jadar Johnson’s leadership role.
“I think it’s a little bit of everybody like Ryan Carter, Marcus Edmond, me, Tanner (Muse), we all just feed into each other and communicate with everybody,” he said.
Even with several losses from last year’s secondary, Smith believes they are reloaded and ready to go for next season.
“Of course there’s always gonna be somebody saying that there’s gonna be a drop off…I think here, everybody loves to compete and they bring in players to compete,” said Smith. “I mean, every day your job is in jeopardy so we have to come in here to compete and ball out.”
We are taking orders for our limited edition magazine Mission Accomplished. Remember Clemson’s championship season with this great magazine from the staff that covers Clemson football 365 days a year. Order your’s today to make sure you get a copy!