"New guy" has plenty of issues to work on

by - Senior Writer -

The word is that Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney Dabo Swinney

Head Coach

View Full Profile will pull the trigger on hiring a new defensive coordinator, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

The new guy, whoever he may be, has a tall task ahead of him. He will certainly watch a lot of game tape, talk with the coaches on staff and current players and assess the abilities of the young players he has coming in during the summer.

Spring practice will be the first time he really gets to see his new players live and in action, but by then he will already have a pretty good idea of what needs to be fixed on a defense that slipped to an all-time low in the Orange Bowl. He will know because everywhere he goes over the next few months, Clemson fans will remind him of the issues and ask him how he plans to fix them.

He won't need a cheat sheet, of course, but here is a fairly good starting point for the new guy.

*Tackling – The tackling has gone from bad to worse over the past three years, and the late-season slide that saw the program lose four of its last six games was a stark and pointed testament to just how bad it was. But we can't kid ourselves, even in some of the wins the tackling was atrocious and only the talents of the offense kept it from being a bigger issue. Poor tackling can make average offenses look like world-beaters, and that is exactly what happened several times this season. Can it be fixed over one spring and one fall camp? That remains to be seen. Some within the program think that the problem lies in the fact that the players aren’t physical enough in practice, and that the defense is allowed only to “thud” tackle offensive players, which means they can wrap them up but don’t take them to the ground in an effort to protect against injuries. If that’s the case, it would explain why we saw so many arm tackles this season instead of defenders taking a runner’s legs out from under them or performing a good old-fashioned form tackle. That has to change, and quick.

*Linebackers – Standing on the field before the Orange Bowl began, I had a former NFL player ask me about Clemson’s linebackers. Or, to be more specific, the lack of linebacker play. He said the Tiger linebackers were no better than Division II players – not Division 1-AA mind you – but Division II. Ouch. This spring is the time for the crop of youngsters that have been signed over the past two years to step in and make their mark. Lateek TownsendLateek Townsend

Fr. Linebacker

#20 6-2, 215

Bennettsville, SC

View Full Profile looked like he wanted to crush people on special teams, and Stephone AnthonyStephone Anthony

Fr. Linebacker

#12 6-3, 235

Polkton, NC

View Full Profile had several good moments, including on the goal line at Virginia Tech early in the season. The Tigers need to get Tony StewardTony Steward

Fr. Linebacker

#7 6-1, 245

Hastings, FL

View Full Profile ’s knee healthy and see what they have in B.J. GoodsonB.J. Goodson

Fr. Linebacker

#44 6-1, 235

Timmonsville, SC

View Full Profile . Justin ParkerJustin Parker

So. Linebacker

#8 6-1, 225

Port Royal, SC

View Full Profile certainly looks the part, but hasn’t been much of a factor. At one point this season, the play from this unit was so bad that I thought we would see more of the kids, but that never materialized. I heard from one coach that the scheme was too complicated for them to make an impact, yet Steele and Swinney said the scheme was as basic as it could be. It doesn’t matter anymore; the kids’ time is now.

*Stop the option – How many times since Paul Johnson has been at Georgia Tech have Clemson fans had to endure drives that seemed to last 13, 14, 15, 16 and even 17 plays? First down, second down, third down, convert and back to first down. It’s what Johnson’s offense does best, but other schools have had success in stopping it by simply playing disciplined football. Even teams that run a variation of the option – out of the shotgun like Wofford or zone read teams like South Carolina – have had success against a Clemson defense that all too often has looked confused and out of position when the ball was snapped and most certainly out of position once the play developed. Just once, it would be nice to see a linebacker (see above) or defensive end so disciplined that they hit the option quarterback in the mouth on every play. It can be made into something complex, but stopping the option comes down to something as simple as making players understand their job and that they have to do that job every single play. The new guy would be hailed as a hero if he could stop Tech’s option attack his first time out.

*Mobile quarterbacks – Clemson fans have pretty much known over the past three seasons that if a team has a mobile quarterback, it could be a long day for the defense. Heck, even some quarterbacks who aren’t all that mobile have had success running the football. For me, it seems the decline started when TCU’s Andy Dalton seemingly used the zone read play to keep drive after drive alive back in 2009. Since then, mobile quarterbacks who can escape the pocket or execute the zone read have had career days. C.J. Brown of Maryland, Tevin Washington of Georgia Tech, Connor Shaw of South Carolina and Geno Smith of West Virginia are just four examples of quarterbacks who had career days running the ball against the Tigers this season. Again, however, this goes back to laying a good shot or two on the quarterback. Let one aggressive linebacker lay the wood just one time to a scrambler, and that scrambler might hang in the pocket a little longer the next time he is asked to pass.

*Help on the defensive line – The Tigers graduate three starters [ Rennie MooreRennie Moore

RS Sr. Defensive Tackle

#94 6-3, 265

Saint Marys, GA

View Full Profile , Brandon ThompsonBrandon Thompson

Sr. Defensive Tackle

#98 6-2, 310

Thomasville, GA

View Full Profile , Andre BranchAndre Branch

RS Sr. Defensive End

#40 6-5, 260

Richmond, VA

View Full Profile ] and one main contributor [ Kourtnei BrownKourtnei Brown

Gr. Defensive End

#90 6-6, 255

Charlotte, NC

View Full Profile ] off of this season’s line. This attrition comes just a year after losing Jarvis JenkinsJarvis Jenkins

Sr. Defensive Tackle

#99 6-4, 315

Clemson, SC

View Full Profile , Da’Quan Bowers, Miguel ChavisMiguel Chavis

Sr. Defensive Tackle

#89 6-5, 285

Fayetteville, NC

View Full Profile and one time contributor Jamie CumbieJamie Cumbie

Defensive Line

# 6-7, 290

Morris, IL

View Full Profile [who was dismissed by head coach Dabo Swinney] to the NFL. If you’re counting, that is eight big-time players that have been lost from the once-deep unit over two years. That kind of loss comes with a price, a price that will be paid this season with a lot of younger players. The old man of the group will be end Malliciah GoodmanMalliciah Goodman

Jr. Defensive End

#97 6-4, 280

Florence, SC

View Full Profile , who needs to shed the “potential” label and become the player the coaches have always said he could be. Branch drew double and triple-teams this year, while Thompson drew double-teams in the middle, yet Goodman had a rather quiet season. He and sophomore Corey CrawfordCorey Crawford

Fr. Defensive End

#93 6-5, 280

Columbus, GA

View Full Profile will have to elevate their games in order to take pressure off the interior of the line, which is long on numbers but short on experience. DeShawn WilliamsDeShawn Williams

Fr. Defensive Tackle

#99 6-1, 290

Central, SC

View Full Profile , Tyler ShatleyTyler Shatley

RS So. Defensive Tackle

#43 6-3, 295

Icard, NC

View Full Profile , Josh WatsonJosh Watson

RS Fr. Defensive Tackle

#91 6-4, 290

Wilmington, DE

View Full Profile , Tavaris BarnesTavaris Barnes

RS Fr. Defensive End

#6 6-4, 270

Jacksonville, FL

View Full Profile and company will fight throughout the spring and fall for playing time, while incoming freshman Carlos Watkins looks like he could be a contributor right off the bat. All will be needed in what will be a transition year.

*The secondary – The secondary is on the opposite end of the spectrum than the defensive line. A unit that lost stellar players like Marcus GilchristMarcus Gilchrist

Defensive Back

#12 5-11, 190

High Point, NC

View Full Profile , Crezdon ButlerCrezdon Butler

Defensive Back

# 6-0, 180

Asheville, NC

View Full Profile and DeAndre McDanielDeAndre McDaniel

Wide Receiver

#2 6-1, 180

Tallahassee, FL

View Full Profile over the past few seasons only loses starting corner Coty SensabaughCoty Sensabaugh

Gr. Defensive Back

#15 6-0, 180

Kingsport, TN

View Full Profile this year. The good news is that a lot of younger players saw critical playing time in 2011. Bashaud BreelandBashaud Breeland

RS Fr. Defensive Back

#17 6-0, 185

Allendale, SC

View Full Profile , Jonathan MeeksJonathan Meeks

Jr. Safety

#5 6-1, 210

Rock Hill, SC

View Full Profile , Rashard HallRashard Hall

Gr. Safety

#31 6-1, 210

St. Augustine, FL

View Full Profile , Xavier BrewerXavier Brewer

RS Jr. Defensive Back

#29 5-11, 190

Jacksonville, FL

View Full Profile , Martin JenkinsMartin Jenkins

So. Defensive Back

#14 5-9, 175

Roswell, GA

View Full Profile and Darius RobinsonDarius Robinson

So. Defensive Back

#21 5-11, 170

College Park, GA

View Full Profile have all been on the field and all return. Add in the potential of players like Robert SmithRobert Smith

Fr. Defensive Back

#27 5-11, 210

St. George, SC

View Full Profile and Garry PetersGarry Peters

RS Fr. Defensive Back

#38 5-11, 190

Conyers, GA

View Full Profile , add in Cortez DavisCortez Davis

Fr. Defensive Back

#2 6-3, 200

Daytona Beach, FL

View Full Profile [who redshirted] and newcomer Travis Blanks and the secondary has a chance to be a strength of the defense while the line and linebacker corps break in younger players. Getting Rashard Hall healthy will be a key, and I truly believe finding a permanent home for some players [instead of seeing a player at safety one play, corner the next and nickel the next play] will add stability to the group.

*Aggressiveness – Former defensive coordinator Kevin SteeleKevin Steele

Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers

View Full Profile pointed out recently that his defense blitzed 40-plus plays in the South Carolina game. His answer was in response to a question about the lack of an aggressive nature from his defense. To me, you don’t have to be a blitz-happy defense to be an aggressive defense. Aggressive means big hits; it means running down the ball carrier; it means shedding blocks; it means stopping the option by attacking the ball carrier instead of waiting to be blocked; it means stopping a running quarterback by lowering the boom a few times; it means dominating the line of scrimmage no matter who you are playing, whether it be Auburn or Wofford. That has to return to Clemson football.

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Subject (Replies: 26) Author
spacer Front Page Story: "New guy" has plenty of issues to work on
spacer Re: Front Page Story: "New guy" has plenty of issues to work on
spacer why the heck is tackling such a big problem for us?
spacer Re: why the heck is tackling such a big problem for us?
spacer ^this
spacer Dabo reportedly limited tackling against Steele's wishes.
spacer wrong wrong wrong
spacer Amen Brotha!
spacer DC Hood makes some good observations
spacer Re: DC Hood makes some good observations
spacer The aggressiveness paragraph is spot on. Every sentence.***
spacer Tackling is bad at all levels now
spacer Re: Tackling is bad at all levels now
spacer Re: Tackling is bad at all levels now- yep and
spacer Says the guy who spelled managed
spacer As much as I hate it I disagree on Hall...
spacer Maybe another example of Steele's scheme being too
spacer Re: Maybe another example of Steele's scheme being too
spacer Re: Front Page Story: "New guy" has plenty of issues to work on
spacer Whoever it is, better hit the ground running...I don't want
CM Shack
spacer Re: Tackling has devolved to Stripping
spacer Re: Are you expecting us to be Bama on defense??
spacer I think our practices may be too soft. We need more live
Completely Solid Orange
spacer Re: Front Page Story: "New guy" has plenty of issues to work on
spacer Re: Front Page Story: "New guy" has plenty of issues to work on***
spacer Re: Re: Front Page Story: "New guy" has plenty of issues to work on***
spacer Hallelujah...***

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