Clemson ranked No. 4 nationally in total defense last season, and even with nine returning starters, defensive coordinator Brett Venables is not seeing what he wants from his defensive unit this spring. Coming off of last weeks’ less than acceptable performance in the spring’s second scrimmage at Death Valley, the intensity continues to be lacking in the secondary.
According to safety Tanner Muse, one reason for his coach’s disappointment last week is the intensity was missing.
“You have to bring the intensity because the offense is going to bring theirs and lock into the little things,” Muse said. “That’s what we missed.”
When the Tigers took the field Wednesday following a five-day break, it was just an average day that lacked heavy enthusiasm, which may be the key to put the defense into full gear.
“It should be higher than what it has been,” Muse said. “Sometimes it’s there. It’s a hit or miss. As leaders we have to be able to tell the younger guys the way it needs to be and I think that is what we are missing a little bit.”
While spring practice has not gone as well as Venables had hoped, the concern in the secondary remains a factor. With the absence of Ryan Carter, Van Smith, and Marcus Edmond, Muse noted Venables “doesn’t feel great about our depth there at all.”
Despite the skepticism, Muse believes there are plenty of guys, especially at safety that are going to be able to build the depth as they receive more reps in practice. The junior himself will be returning in the fall at safety along with Isaiah Simmons, who is also playing the nickel/SAM position, and K’Von Wallace, as they all saw significant playing time last season. At corner, Trayvon Mullen, Mark Fields and A.J. Terrell are returning.
Muse has not bought into the idea that there is a lack of depth in the secondary, and that the only thing that needs to improve is preparation.
“We need to key in on the little things,” he said. “Know your assignments, know your leverages when it’s this down and the distance is up. Know what you have to do and what you have to be prepared for. I think that is the main thing. Just going into the film room, taking as much notes as you can, and being locked in is the main thing to get better.”
As a whole, the Clemson defense is not where it needs to be, but it has until September to continue to get better.