Dorian O’Daniel is one of the more experienced players on Clemson’s football team. The linebacker has appeared in 42 games the last three seasons, including 13 starts. But even with all that experience, the Olney, Md., native says he still is not where he needs to be as a player.
“I feel like I have something to prove,” O’Daniel said. “Every year, I feel like there is this gray area in my play, and this year, I do not want to leave any doubt.”
That gray area mostly has to do with O’Daniel’s ability to cover slot receivers from his strong-side position. Some wonder if the 6-foot-1, 224-pound backer can do it, while also being productive at stopping the run.
No one on Clemson’s nationally ranked defense is better at stopping the run than O’Daniel. He has become a personal nightmare for Georgia Tech and offensive coordinators try to scheme around him. Last year, he had a career-high 60 tackles, including 10 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
“They want to know whether or not I can do both,” O’Daniel said. “‘Can he cover guys? Is he a linebacker?’ I just want to go out there and show people that I can do both at a high level.”
To be a better player in coverage, O’Daniel has spent all summer, and now heading into the third week of camp, trying to cover wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who is said to be the most difficult of all the Clemson receivers to cover.
“Whenever you cover Hunter Renfrow every day, he stresses you,” O’Daniel said. “You don’t want to go up against him.”
But iron sharpens iron, which Clemson players and coaches so frequently say. So O’Daniel is out there trying to do something even Alabama’s cover guys have not been able to do the last two seasons.
However, Renfrow has seen improvement from O’Daniel over the summer.
“I haven’t caught a ball against him since last fall,” Renfrow said. “He’s been unbelievable. His technique and how much better he’s gotten, it is really cool to watch.”
Smiling, O’Daniel was not buying what Renfrow was selling, though he appreciates the compliment.
“I know he was talking me up in the interviews, and he told me, but don’t let him fool you, he has got me a few times too,” the linebacker said. “We are just trying to get each other better every day.”
And that is exactly what they are doing, and Renfrow is definitely seeing it.
“Dorian O’Daniel is the guy who has impressed me the most,” the receiver said. “I have to go against him every day and he is light-years ahead of where he was two years ago. His mental aspect … he knows what I am going to do before I do it.”
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