Gilchrist the "genius" of the defense

by - Senior Writer -
Gilchrist tallied 107 tackles a year ago, including four double-digit performances.

CLEMSON – Quick, without looking it up, try and name the Tigers’ leading returning tackler from last season.

If you already knew that Marcus Gilchrist was the answer, then give yourself a pat on the back for being a knowledgeable Clemson fan. If you didn’t know, then don’t worry about it, because the senior defensive back out of High Point, N.C., shares a secondary with All American DeAndre McDaniel, who gets most of the press.

Gilchrist tallied 107 tackles a year ago, including four double-digit performances, from the strong safety spot, where he started every game and played 902 snaps, the most of any Tigers, and this season he has moved back to cornerback as the Tigers attempt to replace last year’s starters, Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler, with Gilchrist and Byron Maxwell.

Rashard Hall, who played safety in nickel packages last season, will take over full-time duties at strong safety, and Hall said after practice last week that Gilchrist was the “genius of the defense.”

Gilchrist was asked on Monday what that meant, and he said it’s because he tries to know every position on the defensive side of the ball.

“One thing we try and do as a team, and what I try and do, is just stay in my book [playbook],” Gilchrist said. “I am never satisfied, and I don’t feel like I ever know everything, so I try and stay in my book as much as I can. I also like knowing where my teammates have to be and what they do.

“We run a lot of things where we are blitzing, and maybe on that play the end has to drop into coverage, or maybe the tackle does. Knowing where they will be and where they will drop is important, because it helps out knowing where you have an opening, and where you have personnel leverages and things like that.”

Gilchrist hasn’t worked exclusively at cornerback this fall, moving between corner and safety, and said that he has no preference where he plays.
“Right now, I am just working at a lot of different positions, and trying to keep it natural for all of them,” he said. “Whatever the game plan is for that week, then that is where I will play. Wherever the coaches decided to put me, then that is where I want to be. I was brought up that a defensive back should be able to play both corners and both safety spots and even the nickel. I pride myself on being able to play every position out there.”

Another position that Gilchrist will probably see time at this fall is punt returner, and he said that he hopes he can bring the same kind of excitement to returns that former players C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford brought.

“Whenever you have two different people, there will be different styles,” he said. “What I try and do is just depend on my guys to block for me. On any return, you still have to make one or two guys miss and get out into the open field, and that is what I want to do. Of course, it’s every defensive player’s dream to be on a return team. You always play so much defense, and everyone talks about what they can do when they get the ball. Now I’ve got a chance to show what I can do.”

Despite the presence of McDaniel in the same defensive backfield, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney called Gilchrist the “best player on the defense so far” last week, and Gilchrist said he appreciates the comments, but it doesn’t matter until you go play.

“I am flattered, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “But you know that you have to keep working, and you can’t be satisfied with where you are. I want to be a better teammate. I want to be a better player. I want to be a better leader. And I want to be a better person.”

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