Tigers’ new defensive front made progress in its first game
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was thrilled with last Thursday’s win over Georgia Tech to open the new year. He was especially thrilled with the play of his defensive line, which for the most held its own against Georgia Tech’s run heavy-offense.
The Yellow Jackets rushed for 157 yards and averaged 3.5 yards per carry. However, the Tigers still had 3 sacks and 8 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in its first game in three years without the Power Rangers.
“We are going to be a work in progress for a little while,” Swinney said. “That is just the way it is. We have to play, we have to get in some situations, but they will get better quickly.”
They got better as the game went along on Thursday.
Freshman Tyler Davis lived up to his hype in his debut game. Xavier Thomas was all over the field and disrupting things in the backfield. K.J. Henry showed off his speed and athleticism, as well as how strong he has become following a redshirt season, while Nyles Pickney was the savvy veteran in the middle taking up space and allowing his linebackers to come down hill and make plays.
It did not take long for Clemson’s defense to be tested. After Tech moved inside the Tigers’ 40-yard line in the second quarter, the defensive line dug in and helped stop the Yellow Jackets on fourth-and-one.
After a sudden change of possession, when Tech’s Tre Swilling intercepted a Trevor Lawrence pass and took it to the Clemson 2-yard line, the defensive front again bowed up and four straight times denied the Yellow Jackets admittance into their end zone.
“Stuff like that is huge for their confidence, for their momentum, for their belief in themselves … there was a lot of big eyes today,” Swinney said. “As much ball as these guys have played, and as much practice and practice can become very easy for them. I guess not easy, but they get used to it. Then all of sudden, that game day, it’s different and you can’t simulate it.
“So, we had some craziness go on, but I’m really thankful for the opportunities we got in the game to be able to teach. Some of the failure that we had, we will grow from it.”
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