Throughout the off-season, the entire country has raved about Clemson’s defense with the return of Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant on the defensive line, as well as a slew of depth on that side of the ball.
After the first scrimmage of fall camp Saturday at Death Valley, Tiger coaches and veterans were not impressed with the team’s performance on defense, while saying there is plenty of room for improvement.
“I thought we played good for the first two plays, played good for the third but lined up off sides and we were inconsistent from there,” said defensive coordinator Brent Venables. “The second group went three-and-out then we come out and lineup offside another time on third down, had a face mask, let people run by us on three-deep coverage.”
Offensively, Clemson went and made plays, winning one-on-one battles on jump balls whilst taking advantage of penalties and mental miscues by the defense. Redshirt junior safety Tanner Muse was disappointed with the excess of penalties defensively.
“Everything was clicking like it should, but we were hurting ourselves, if it was third-and-long we’d jump offside and give them a third-and-short,” he said. “We hurt ourselves and gave them better situations to do more offensively that was the main problem for us today.”
Muse started nine games for the Tigers last season, before dealing with injuries down the stretch, and knows how impactful mental mistakes can be on the outcome of a game.
“Sometimes we have juice and sometimes we don’t have as much juice. If you have a day off on defense you are going to get exposed really quickly,” he said.
Linebacker Tre Lamar, who played a pivotal role for Clemson defensively last season before being injured, was not pleased with his defenses performance on Saturday. Lamar does not believe a veteran unit should have as many unforced errors.
“(Practice was) not great, we can play a lot better than that with veteran experience out there,” the junior said. “That shouldn’t be acceptable, so we need to come out in the next practices and scrimmages and play better than that.
“They made a lot of plays, but we kicked ourselves a few times and we could have helped ourselves and we didn’t.”
Venables did say the Tigers improved later on in practice, making plays in short yardage and goal-line drills during situational plays. He also said the Tigers are dealing with a limited Mario Goodrich, who is dealing with an injured groin. Trayvon Mullen did not attend practice Saturday because he was at a funeral.
While the Clemson defense may not have had its best practice today, there is no reason to panic. However, the Tigers do have to make some progress.
Clemson will return to practice on Monday.