Do not count Dabo Swinney among those who are concerned about Clemson’s defense after back-to-back years the Tigers were exposed in big playoff games.
In the 2020 National Championship Game, Clemson gave up 628 yards and 42 points to Joe Burrow and LSU at the Superdome in New Orleans. A year later, in the same building, the Tigers gave up a bowl-record 639 total yards and 49 points to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.
Since the Sugar Bowl loss, Clemson’s defensive players have been outspoken about the way they played and have said it has been their focus to get it corrected ever since.
But Swinney says he is worried. He has complete confidence that defensive coordinator Brent Venables and his staff will have the Tigers right back where they have been every year since he took over the defense in 2012 … right at the top.
“In those playoff games, we have been on both sides of that. Two years ago, we won one by 28 points against (Alabama), the team that just won it this year,” Clemson’s head coach said following Friday’ scrimmage at Death Valley. “Those games are hard. We took our lumps the last couple of years, but you have to be ready in those moments. You have to be good enough to get there. So, it ain’t like it is all bad.”
From a defensive standpoint, Swinney says the defense has been more of the same under Venables’ direction this spring.
“We have been really, really good on defense around here for a long time. Brent is as good as it gets,” Swinney said. “But our eyes are now in the rearview mirror, our eyes are moving forward. It is about this team. It is about getting this group ready for the opener on Sept. 4.”
The Tigers, who will likely be a top 5 team in the preseason polls, will play Georgia at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte to start the season. The Bulldogs will likely be in the top 5 or top 10 when the season begins.
“We have a long way to go. We have some time to get the work done,” Swinney said. “I have just seen the same commitment from Brent Venables that I have seen ever since he got here. He has always been locked in focused and fully committed. He gives his best every single day that he walks in the building. He gives his best and you can count on that.”
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