Clemson’s dropoff in some areas defensively last season wasn’t about desire. The breakdowns, at least in some players’ minds, were about a lack of execution.
Many agree, though, that last year’s performance wasn’t good enough, which has fueled the fire for the unit in its preparation for next season.
“I think we’ve definitely got something to prove this year,” linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. said earlier this spring. “We didn’t end last year how we wanted to. We end up losing the Orange Bowl. I feel like that hunger is still there like it was last year, but it’s amplified coming into this year just because of how we ended last year.
“We’re hungry to get better, and we’re going into next year with some vengeance to us.”
Wes Goodwin’s first season calling the shots as Brent Venables’ successor was an inconsistent one for the defense. Statistically, Clemson was still strong against the run with one of college football’s top defensive lines leading the way, but with five new starters in the back seven, defending the pass was a season-long issue.
Clemson still finished 28th nationally in total defense despite ranking 76th against the pass.
“Even if we have the No. 1 defense in the country, I still think we would have so much room for improvement. And that’s just the mindset we all have,” fellow linebacker Barrett Carter said. “We’re all striving to get better. Definitely have some good things from last year and definitely have a lot of things we have to work on.
“We’ve just got to watch a lot of film and learn from the mistakes. Proud of the way we competed last year, but there’s always room for improvement. We just have a long way to go to be where we want to be, and that’s a national championship.”
Trotter echoed Carter’s sentiment that tightening up the fundamental breakdowns can go a long way in helping the unit have a bounceback season in 2023.
“Watch the film, make those corrections from last year and just try to learn from our mistakes,” Trotter said. “We definitely made some mistakes we shouldn’t have made. We can clean up things to make our defense elite and be one of the top defenses in the country, I feel like.”
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