Clemson’s secondary, which features several first-year starters and plenty of youth, was up and down and inconsistent performance wise in the Tigers’ first three games of the season.
But Saturday night against Miami, the talented unit showed its potential and what it is capable of, holding star quarterback D’Eriq King and the Hurricanes’ offense to only 121 passing yards and not allowing a passing touchdown in Clemson’s 42-17 victory at Death Valley.
King, who had completed 67 percent of his passes for 736 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions through Miami’s first three games, went just 12-of-28 through the air for 121 yards and was intercepted twice by cornerbacks Sheridan Jones and Derion Kendrick.
Although Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables was pleased with what he saw from his secondary during Saturday’s contest, he is far from satisfied.
“I’m real proud of the guys,” he said Monday. “We all are, their growth, but we have a long way to go.”
Despite the fact the Tigers lost starting cornerback A.J. Terrell and starting safeties Tanner Muse and K’Von Wallace to the NFL after last season – and are counting on a bunch of young players to fill their void in the back end of the defense – Venables isn’t surprised by how well the secondary performed against Miami on Saturday.
Actually, it’s closer to what he expects from the group.
“I think (the Miami game) more is what we expected the first few games,” Venables said. “The consistency and the communication… They had a good spring and a good fall camp, and it’s a group of guys that are smart, long and athletic and can run and have a great sense of humility to them. And just a great group of guys as far as work ethic and investing time to know what to do and are just detailed guys. So, there’s a lot more to be had, and we’ve got to continue to get better and improve in so many areas. But pleased with the progress and the improvement.”
While the secondary made a lot of good plays against the Hurricanes, that is not what the Tigers are focused on heading into this Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta.
Instead, Venables and Clemson’s staff are harping on the plays the unit didn’t make, the mistakes it did and the areas in which it can improve moving forward.
“Certainly pleased with the effort and the attitude and the focus, but certainly not satisfied,” Venables said. “We have a long way to go to get better, and we’re trying to spend a lot of time on what isn’t good because that’s what people are going to try to attack. Yeah, you made the play, but this is what they’re going to see – you let the receiver stack, you got beat at the line, you got lucky, he underthrew it. Those are the plays that we’re talking about in the building today. Because if you don’t get that right, that’s going to rear its ugly head down the road, so to speak. So, I would just say pleased, certainly not satisfied by any stretch.”
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