At times last year, due to Tyler Davis’ health, the Clemson defense did not live up to its reputation. Known for their tough, physical style of play, and their ability to create havoc in opposing teams’ backfield, the Tigers just were not consistent on the defensive line and that allowed them to get exposed, especially against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.
Davis got hurt early in the season, and when he came back, he got hurt again. In all, he missed five games last year and was never truly hundred percent.
“He wasn’t the same,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said this past spring. “Tyler is still a young player. Coach (Todd) Bates did a great job of finding ways to get him better.”
Bates did a lot of things to get his defensive tackles to play better. Of course, having a healthy Davis helps, as does having last year’s ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year back in Bryan Bresee.
“He has identified in those things where we have to play quicker. We have to be disruptive. We have to play more vertical. We have to play more violent. We have to improve our pass rush. We have to win more one-on-ones and he put together a great plan to get those guys better,” Venables said.
“I think we are going to be stronger up the middle of our defense this year. I have seen that improvement,” he continued. “Probably the most improvement I have seen of any two guys on our defense is Tyler Davis and Bryan Bresee. They have had terrific springs and if we are going to be what we all hope we are going to be, that is where it is all going to start. It is going to start with those guys.”
Venables said Davis and Bresee have really made improvement since the end of last season.
“Bryan is a tremendous talent, and at times really flashed and was really special,” Venables said. “Then other times, and he would be the first to tell you, he got humbled. He took it on the chin like all young players. He is at one of the toughest positions for a young player to play at in the interior of the defensive line. But I thought he had a great year.”
Bresee did have a great year, but he would like for this year to be even better, as would the rest of the interior of the defensive line.
“In the Ohio State game, we got knocked off the ball. Everybody did,” Venables said. “We all got knocked on our butts all night long. So, that has been a real focus for Tyler and if we are going to be good, let alone great, we have to play great in the middle of the defense and that starts up front.”
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