Top-ranked Clemson had a convincing 37-13 win in its season opener at Wake Forest Saturday night.
A limited travel roster awarded nine players their first start in a Tiger uniform at an empty Truist Field in Winston-Salem, N.C. And the young players lived up to the standard, holding the Demon Deacons without a touchdown until the fourth quarter.
However, Clemson gave up 293 yards and its only touchdown through the air. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said after the game the secondary played well, but also struggled at points against Wake’s up-tempo offense.
“There was some good and some not so good,” Venables said after the game. “We need to play the deep ball better, we need to maintain leverage on routes and not panic, turn to play the ball and all those things. We need to understand the leverage we have to have and maintain that leverage. “
Sophomores Andrew Booth and Sheridan Jones both got their first starts at corner after Derion Kendrick and Mario Goodrich did not make the trip. Wake Forest played three quarterbacks on Saturday and each completed a pass greater than 25 yards, including a 55-yard pass from Sam Hartman and a 37-yard pass from Michael Kern.
Venables felt his corners started out the game well particularly against double moves but the whole secondary needed to work on communication against an up-tempo scheme.
“We put on a clinic with the double moves and did a really excellent job by some of those guys and I was excited to see that. We had some miscommunication and a bust or two in the first half,” Venables said. “Wake goes really fast and they have three straight years of being top five in the country in plays per game.”
Venables noted sophomore Lannden Zanders and senior Nolan Turner really impressed him at safety. He also attributed a lot of the mistakes in the secondary to the sheer number of players deep in the depth chart that entered the game after halftime.
At the end of the day he feels the unit is equipped to handle the challenges it will face from opponents this season.
“When you get on the stage you have to line up and know what to do,” Venables said. “We have plenty more to do but we have the right guys to do it.”
Clemson returns to action at Memorial Stadium in Clemson next Saturday against The Citadel.
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