Cornerback can often times be a lonely place for those that play the position.
And after the way things went for Clemson’s younger-than-usual group in the Tigers’ double-overtime win over Wake Forest on Saturday, it would be easy for the defensive backs to get down on themselves. But Nate Wiggins said he’s not about to let himself go there.
“I know what I can do,” Wiggins said.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Wiggins, Clemson’s sophomore corner, touched on the importance of players like him having a short memory, particularly after the performance he and the rest of Clemson’s secondary had against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons quickly erased the Tigers’ early 14-0 lead by repeatedly picking on the Tigers’ corners in man coverage.
Wake quarterback Sam Hartman averaged nearly 17 yards per completion while his six touchdown passes were a single-game school record. Wiggins felt his share of personal frustration after being flagged for one of Clemson’s five pass-interference penalties in the first half. He then gave up a 25-yard touchdown pass to Donavon Greene that put the Demon Deacons ahead late in the third quarter.
“I feel like one game doesn’t (show) who I am,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins got some redemption on the game’s final play when he dropped from his underneath coverage to knock away Hartman’s pass intended for A.T. Perry near the back of the end zone. Even that was a frustrating moment for Wiggins as much as it was one of relief.
“I really dropped an interception,” he said. “And that was my second drop (this season). So I was kind of upset with myself.”
Wiggins said the primary issue for himself as well as the rest of the corners in consistently getting beat over the top was breakdowns in technique, primarily having their eyes in the backfield instead of turning and running with the receiver. Wiggins said he’s “heard that a lot” from position coach Mike Reed since the end of Saturday’s game.
Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Wesley Goodwin took some blame on his shoulders, adding there are things he can do as a play-caller to give his defensive backs more help. With Sheridan Jones and Malcolm Greene out with injuries, Clemson played Saturday’s game with just one available upperclassman corner (Fred Davis).
“Just varying our coverages and our techniques and just putting them in position where they can be successful at what they can do,” Goodwin said. “Taking stress off of them and not putting them on an island more times than not.”
Still, it’s only natural to assume offenses Clemson still has to play will be licking their chops as they watch the film from the Wake Forest game, seeing an opportunity to take a similar offensive approach until the Tigers prove they can provide more consistent resistance in coverage. That could start Saturday when N.C. State, led by veteran quarterback Devin Leary, brings an offense to Memorial Stadium that’s averaging more than 253 yards through the air.
Asked if he expects to see more of the same from opposing offenses, Wiggins went a step further than simply accepting the challenge.
“I ain’t ever going to have no game like that again,” Wiggins said. “They can try, but it’s not going to be the same results.”
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