Monday Morning Quarterback
Heading into the 2019 season, all the talk was about Clemson’s offense and understandably so. The Tigers returned eight starters on offense, including dynamic quarterback Trevor Lawrence, dynamic running back Travis Etienne and two of the best wide receivers in the country in Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross.
With the loss of the greatest defensive front in the history of college football, plus the departure of five linebackers from last year’s roster, the defense was supposed to struggle early on. The offense was going to have to carry the defense until the young defensive players up front got more experience.
Through the first three games, that can’t be further from the truth.
Though not perfect, the defense has been the more consistent unit through the first three weeks of the season. Using the weapons and athletes he has, defensive coordinator Brent Venables has used exotic blitzes and schemes that have confused the opposition.
Through the first quarter of the season, no opponent has scored more than 14 points and no opponent has reached 300 yards of total offense.
Clemson, who led the nation in scoring defense last year, is currently at the top again. The Tigers are yielding just 13.1 points per game to lead the nation, and rank in the top 15 in both total defense (256.7 yds/game) and rushing defense (75.0 yds/game) thus far.
They are tied for second nationally in sacks with 14.
However, the most impressive statistic of all to this point is what the Clemson defense has been able to do in the red zone. In nine red zone attempts thus far, Clemson’s opponents have converted just five of those into points.
In those nine trips, the opposition has averaged just 2.5 points per trip, while the Tigers have four goal-line stands.
Venables says the goal-line stands are fun. He says it is almost like they’re in practice, again, just flying around and having fun and making plays.
The Tigers are also forcing turnovers. They have forced at least one in every game this year and currently have 4 interceptions, which is tied for eighth nationally. They have also recovered 3 fumbles to this point.
Their 7 forced turnovers are tied for ninth nationally as well.
The interesting thing about how good this Clemson defense can become is the fact that it still has some improving to do. As impressive as they have played against Texas A&M and Syracuse these last two weeks, they still have some things to improve on.
There have been a couple of coverage bust that they have gotten away with. A&M overthrew a potential touchdown on the second play of the game, while an Orange wide receiver dropped a touchdown in the end zone in the first quarter this past Saturday.
But that’s good news for Clemson. They can coach off of those kinds of mistakes, which means this defense, which held Dino Babers’ Syracuse team to its lowest offensive output since he has been the head coach there, is just going to get better and better as the season goes along.
We can only imagine how good this unit is going to be by the end of the year.
We are pleased to announce a new partnership with Fanatics. This is great news for Tiger fans as they have the officially licensed Clemson gear.
The Clemson Insider will get a portion of all sales so get ready for another championship season by ordering your Clemson gear today and help support TCI.