After the departure of defensive All-ACC first team selections Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett, and Stephone Anthony, the Clemson defense is hard pressed to return to last year’s dominant form. They were second in all of college football in points allowed/game (17.5) and in total yards allowed (278). Clemson hit their stride by the end of the season and only gave up 7.7 points/game over their last three contests, including their 40-7 cudgeling of Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Usually, the exit of such tremendous defensive leaders would lead people to believe Clemson should expect a down defensive year. Don’t tell that to Clemson defensive coordinator, Brent Venables. Even with such large gaps to fill, Venables believes the group of incoming freshman have what it takes to continue from where they left off.
Yes, you heard that right; Venables is convinced the true freshman additions to the starting defense can and WILL help the Tigers continue their dominance.
“I think we hit it,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said earlier in the week. “You obviously don’t always feel that way, but we really feel like we hit it with all of those guys. Sometimes you think it is just coach speak, but they all like to work and they’re all coachable.”
Encouragingly, it’s not just the coordinator with praise either; most of the veterans like these newbies too. Junior defensive lineman and All-ACC preseason selection Shaq Lawson is impressed with their work ethic and physical maturity.
“The young guys are stepping up, and we need them to step up,” Lawson said.”They actually picked up things fast and look better than what we did when we first came in. Those young guys are going to help us a lot.”
It seems like Clemson is just one happy family on the defensive side of the ball, building chemistry before they even see a snap together.
“Our older guys have done an incredible job of pouring into the younger guys, I mean really, really well,” Venables said. “It is very pleasing to see that, and as a result there is a real mutual respect from the young guys to the old guys and the old guys to the new guys as opposed to a disconnect and that has to develop over time.”
With Heisman hopeful QB Deshaun Watson leading the way on offense and true freshman effectively filling gaps defensively, the Clemson Tigers have their sights on the ACC title and, of course, the FBS playoffs. After finishing last season 10-3 and ranked #15 (AP Poll), the sky’s the limit for this young and hungry squad from South Carolina.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports