Clemson’s defense was embarrassed about the way it played against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, and it is not because they allowed 49 points and a record 639 total yards.
No, instead, it was the way in which they were beat is what has the Clemson defense mad. The Buckeyes physically dominated the Tigers on New Year’s Day in New Orleans.
“We are reminded constantly of how the last outcome went. We will not forget about it,” linebacker Trenton Simpson said this past spring.
The images are clear and plentiful on film and in photographs all over the internet and social media. Images of Ohio State running back Trey Sermon running over and through Clemson defenders, while the offensive line was smashing the Tigers’ defensive line and linebackers.
Those images carried into the spring and now into summer workouts where the players are instilling a mentality that they can’t allow themselves to be embarrassed like that again.
“Everyone has started practice off tougher, trying to set a mindset all the way up to the fall,” Simpson said. “We want to be ready and want to be more physically ready in the trenches, from D-Line to linebacker to the back seven. Just everywhere and everybody being ready to hit somebody and be on the (opponent’s) side of the line of scrimmage on every play.”
Simpson says this mentality is inside the Clemson locker room and permeates throughout the Allen Reeves Football Complex. Senior captain James Skalski is relentless and is not letting anyone forget about how they played.
“He reminds us every day, ‘We got punched in the last game. So, we have to come out prepared every day at practice.’ It is game rep versus whoever and to play as hard as we can,” Simpson said.
The mindset of playing tough and playing physical starts in practice. That is why Skalski, along with head coach Dabo Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables, stress it every day.
“Like Coach Swinney says, ‘If you don’t practice physical, you cannot expect to play physical.’ So, every day you come to practice you have to play as physical as you can,” Simpson said. “That translates to the game.”
The next game for the Tigers will be on Sept. 4 against Georgia at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. They will definitely have to be ready for a Bulldogs’ offense that is known for its physicality.