Brooks says his group not afraid of SEC challenge

by - Senior Writer -
Brooks said Clemson will embrace the challenge of facing another SEC team. (Photo: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)

Dan BrooksDan Brooks
Assistant Coach / Defensive Line
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knows a thing or two about playing SEC football.

Brooks is beginning his fourth season as Clemson’s defensive line coach, but spent five years at Florida in the 1980’s and then spent 15 years at Tennessee starting in 1994.

Clemson opens the season against Georgia on August 31st, and Brooks said he understands that in the current landscape of college football and the perception of football quality that is molded by networks like ESPN, Clemson will be playing against more than just Georgia.

It will be the ACC vs. the SEC.

But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when you come away with a victory, like Clemson did against SEC powerhouse LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta on New Year’s Eve. Brooks said the Tigers will be able to use some of the lessons learned in that game and apply during preparations for Georgia.

“We can use that. It was so different from the Auburn game up front and how we attacked them,” Brooks said recently. “When you can stop LSU on 3rd-and-1 and 3rd-and-2 consistently, that gives you confidence. We ended up playing three from the SEC last season. I have coached twice in the SEC and twice in the ACC. They want to crow that they play the best football in the country and it’s hard to argue with them because they have won those national championships. But we were 2-1 against the SEC a year ago, and when you beat an Auburn in the opener and LSU in the last game, it does bring respect to your program.”

Brooks said that beating LSU paid dividends in recruiting, and would expect the same kind of success if Clemson were to beat Georgia.

“Kids saw that game because it was the only game in town,” he said. “Guys contacted us that were not in our regular recruiting footprint because they saw us on national television. If you beat those guys it is good for you. The players get told all the time about the SEC. But you look at the ACC and they have added Notre Dame and Louisville – which just knocked off Florida – and it isn’t getting any easier in the ACC.”

He said that opening against a powerhouse like Georgia helps players concentrate and focus more, not only during fall practice but during the spring.

He also said that opening with a Top 10 opponent is a tough assignment for any team.

“With what has happened with the conference schedule, it is tough when you open up against a non-conference opponent like that,” he said. “But from a preparation standpoint, you have to be ready to go right out of the gate. We don’t get to have preseason games like the NFL or scrimmages and jamborees like high school – we have to show up on national television and be ready to go.

“A year ago, we opened with Auburn and nobody knew what would happen. A few years ago, we went down there and lost in overtime, and they went on to win the National Championship. But it helps with preparation when you play a team like that right off the bat. When you open with a great team versus one that your kids don’t respect, you see more intensity out of your kids. I can tell you just from spring practice that on our side of the ball, they already know who we are playing.”

Brooks then said that the Tigers aren’t afraid to take on the SEC, and will embrace the challenge.

“I don’t think our football team is afraid to play anybody,” he said. “Nationally, you know that if you beat those guys, it is good for you. Our players get told all the time about the SEC. I don’t think they are afraid, and we can compete with anybody on a given day.”

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