If there was one concern for Clemson coming into the 2020 season, as far as football goes, it was on the defensive side of the ball.
The Tigers had a lot of holes to fill. Though talented, the question was how long would it take for the new players, like freshmen Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy, to mesh with the veteran players, such as Nyles Pinckney, Jordan Williams and James Skalski.
It did not take long. In fact, through the first two games, it seems like it has been a seamless transition.
Clemson’s defense has looked outstanding after two weeks of play. Wake Forest and The Citadel averaged just 1.1 and 1.8 yards per carry, and that is with The Citadel running the football from its triple-option offense 48 times last Saturday.
In the off-season, the biggest thing for the defense was trying to stay connected. The coaching staff, led by defensive coordinator Brent Venables, communicated with his players all the time.
“We had tons of meeting,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “The guys kept preparing and kept believing and stayed focus on what they control. That was our big message. Just stay focused on the things that you control, which is your preparation. Be ready and we will worry about the rest.”
So far so good. Though it is just a small sample size, Clemson ranks in the top 10 nationally in most defensive categories. The Tigers are ninth in scoring defense (6.5 pts), ninth in total defense (246.0 yds.), sixth in rushing defense (61.5 yds.), tied for first in sacks (10) and second in tackles-for-loss (23). They are also 12th in third-down defense (24.2 percent).
“It is just great to see them really play so well. I just think we are off to a really good start,” Swinney said. “The guys are confident and really playing together with really good chemistry that sometimes takes a little while. Again, we have been able to play a lot of guys, which will bode well for us as we go through the course of the season. But again, their readiness and the depth of knowledge we have been able to develop has been really impressive.
“But it just goes to show you the type of leadership we got. Our coaches do an awesome job. You got a guy like James Skalski over there. Everybody is paying attention. Everybody is listening. It is fun to see. You have a lot of guys who care on that defensive side.”
The Tigers will practice today (Wednesday) and Thursday before taking Friday and Saturday off. Clemson is scheduled to play again on Oct. 3 when Virginia comes to Death Valley in a rematch of last year’s ACC Championship Game.
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