Swinney's stern message for his defense

Swinney's stern message for his defense

Football

Swinney's stern message for his defense

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Clemson has long had an in-season routine of picking players of the game on both sides of the ball based on individual performances from the previous week.

Breaking from that weekly tradition has been rare for Clemson coach Dabo Swinney over the years, but it happened following the Tigers’ win over Furman last week. While quarterback D.J. Uiagalalei and running back Will Shipley got the nod offensively, Swinney didn’t bestow the honor on any defensive players because, in his mind, it wasn’t deserved.

“That’s for sure,” Swinney said. “Not defensively.”

After expressing disappointment in the way the unit played immediately after Saturday’s game, Swinney continued his criticism of the defense during his weekly press conference Tuesday. Furman, the lone FCS opponent on Clemson’s schedule, outgained the Tigers in total yards, threw for nearly 9 yards a completion and kept Clemson’s defense on the field for more than 34 minutes of game time by converting more than 55% of its third downs (10 of 18).

“They played harder than we did,” Swinney said. “They executed better than we did. The guys weren’t ready to play. Period. Got to show up. That’s the No. 1 thing, and that’s on me to make sure that happens. But disappointed in our effort. Disappointed that we didn’t have a player of the game. Disappointed in how we competed. That’s where it starts.”

As far as execution goes, Clemson’s primary shortcoming was trying to disrupt a Furman passing game led by quarterback Tyler Huff, who completed more than 77% of his 40 attempts.

Swinney acknowledged Clemson rotated a lot of defensive players in during the lopsided win. He also credited the Paladins for their game plan with screens and other short passes that got the ball out of Huff’s hand quickly. But Swinney said the defense’s biggest issue Saturday was its lack of effort, which he said was pointed out to the unit during Monday’s review of the game film.

Swinney said his players “responded well” to the brutally honest film session. Still, he saw more loafing than usual pop up on the tape, particularly from some of his star players. He warned that kind of effort will start affecting playing time if it continues to happen.

“They know,” Swinney said. “(Defensive end) Myles Murphy knows when he’s loafing. And if he doesn’t, he finds out when he comes to the meeting on Monday. Then you either respond or you don’t.

“If you have any freaking pride to you, you’ll respond. If you don’t, you’ll end up on the sideline. Doesn’t matter who you are. That’s the way it is. We ain’t going to change the standard. And not just Myles. It’s the whole group.”

Swinney did point out some positives he’s seen from the defense through the first two games, particularly the four turnovers it’s forced. He said the group has been position to create even more and that he’s not worried about defensive coordinator Wesley Goodwin’s ability to adjust to what offenses are throwing at the Tigers.

“He’s a savvy guy and a veteran guy,” Swinney said of Goodwin. “He’s seen it all. He’s been in about every situation you can be.”

But things don’t get any easier for Clemson this week with Louisiana Tech’s air-raid offense set to visit Memorial Stadium on Saturday. The Bulldogs, who will bring Conference USA’s fourth-best passing offense to Clemson, could very well attempt more passes than the Tigers have had to defend all season, particularly if Clemson can’t offer up more resistance this time around.

“We didn’t show up defensively Saturday. They all stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn,” Swinney said. “That’s immaturity and a lack of focus, but they better be ready this week. These ole boys can spin it, and they’ve got some dudes that can run. They better be ready for sure because that ball’s going to be in the air.”

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