After having a chance to comb through the film of Saturday’s 51-45 double overtime win at Wake Forest, Clemson defensive coordinator Wesley Goodwin met with reporters on Monday morning.
Goodwin pinpointed big chunk plays and penalties as the glaring issues that came out of this past weekend, which is something that Clemson will need to rectify ahead of a top-10 matchup against N.C. State this Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
On a second and third watch, there weren’t many common themes to Clemson’s breakdowns and busted coverages, Sam Hartman and Wake Forest were able to have their way no matter what the Tigers showed them defensively.
“I mean it seemed like every coverage we played, we gave up a big play in,” Goodwin said.
He acknowledged that Saturday’s performance was a great teaching moment for a secondary that allowed Hartman to average a whopping 16.9 yards per completion, needing just 20 of them to rack up 337 passing yards.
There’s a willingness to get better after the backend of Clemson’s defense gave up six touchdown passes in the win at Wake Forest. The silver lining for Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is that his team didn’t allow a seventh — that was the only good thing he could say about Saturday’s defensive performance.
“We have their attention,” Goodwin said. “They want to learn. They want to get better. This week’s gonna be huge for them to come out. It starts this afternoon. Put this game to bed. None of those points carry over to this week, so we start back at zero going into Saturday.”
That starts with reevaluating how much an aggressive coordinator like Goodwin blitzes with the number of mistakes that came about in the secondary this past weekend.
“There’s definitely a couple of calls where I shouldn’t have pressured here, I should’ve just played Cover 2 or whatever base coverage you wanted to play,” he said. “Sometimes you call a blitz and you’re busted all over, you get a sack. It’s just give and take sometimes. You can always go back and second guess yourself, but you call the defense, you call the plays with the utmost belief in that moment that that’s the best thing to do and sometimes you have to live with those consequences.”
Goodwin was asked if he’ll be as aggressive going forward with the way the secondary’s currently playing and essentially said that Clemson will need to evaluate those opportunities from a week-to-week standpoint.
Following Saturday’s win, Goodwin said that Clemson ultimately wants to be a press-man team, but he also acknowledged Monday that as a play-caller, he has to take some stress off of his cornerbacks and not put them on an island more times than not.
That starts with a team like N.C. State and the challenges that a veteran quarterback like Devin Leary brings to the table. Of course, the Tigers may get some reinforcements in the secondary, but Clemson will need to eliminate the big plays down the field, which have become a relative theme for its defense through the first four games of the season.
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