Following a disappointing performance in Saturday’s scrimmage at Death Valley, Clemson’s defense bounced back in practice on Monday at Jervey Meadows, according to head coach Dabo Swinney.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “Those guys take a lot of pride in what they do. The other day was just kind of a day where the offense made a lot of plays.”
In Saturday’s scrimmage, quarterbacks Kelly Bryant, Trevor Lawrence and Chase Brice carved up a defense that finished second nationally in scoring defense and fourth in total defense in 2017. Bryant and Brice had two touchdown passes apiece, while Lawrence threw one as well, and none of them threw an interception.
Meanwhile, wide receivers Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers, Diondre Overton and Justyn Ross all made big plays in the passing game. In all, the Tigers’ defense allowed 13 explosive plays — plays of 20 yards or more — in the 106-play scrimmage. Of those 13 plays, nine came by way of the passing game.
While defensive coordinator Brent Venables and some veteran players expressed dissatisfaction with the defense’s showing in the scrimmage, Swinney said that after studying the film, it wasn’t all bad.
“Watching the tape, there was a lot of good defensively,” he said. “There really was. They just couldn’t really ever stay in sync. When they’d get a stop, there’d be a penalty… Offensively, pretty much what I thought. Really did some good things. Made a lot of plays.”
Junior linebacker Tre Lamar was among those displeased with how the defense played in the scrimmage, especially considering the number of veterans on that side of the ball. He felt the defense shot itself in the foot on a few occasions, though he too was pleased with how the unit responded Monday.
“I think it was great,” he said. “I think it was a huge bounceback compared to the lull we had the other day. So, I think everybody responded great, and I knew we would because we have a very veteran presence around here. So, it was expected.”
The defense will have more chances to redeem itself this week, including on Thursday when the Tigers hold another full scrimmage. Before that, Clemson will have a mini, situational scrimmage on Tuesday, a walk-through tomorrow night and a tough practice on Wednesday.
“We’re just trying to teach them and put them in as many game-like situations as we can,” Swinney said of his team. “We’re trying to prepare for the year, and this is the time to do it because it’s all ball right now. We’ve got lots of meeting time, lots of opportunities for walk-throughs and a lot of practice opportunity. So, just trying to make it all count.”