Learning on the job

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The Clemson defense was full of question marks before this season began – especially in the secondary. However, the squad has shown growth in the first three games. In last Thursday night’s game the Tiger D held NC State to only 3-of-16 third down conversions, with the aid of growing players like defensive back Travis BlanksTravis Blanks
So. Defensive Back
#11 6-0, 190
Tallahassee, FL

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The 190-pound sophomore out of Tallahassee (FL) had an impressive year as a true freshman in 2012. A lot of eyes are on Blanks this year with expectations that he will have a breakout season at safety, but he’s staying humble. Blanks contributed a respectable six tackles against NC State, but he’s always on the hunt to improve his play.

“You have to always keep things in perspective,” he said. “I’m 19 years old, a sophomore in college, what else do you expect? You will always be learning. I feel like I’ve done well up until this point, but I do have improvements to make.”

Earlier this week Blanks commented that he does feel like he has made a few personal improvements so far this season, specifically when it comes to being prepared for the pace of each game and knowing he must perform at his best for every snap.

He said, “Playing 80 snaps a game, and playing at a high, consistent level at every single snap – that takes intensity, it takes great urgency, it takes great focus.”

Blanks also remarked, “Never will I say that I played just outstanding, because I will always have something to work on. Evidently I played well enough to get my team to 3-0, so that’s all that matters to me.”

The safety then made it clear that the Tigers’ win against the Wolfpack was a team effort, no matter how ugly some critics thought the win was on the offensive side of the ball.

“That’s what a team is. The offense is going to make mistakes and the defense is going to be counted on. The defense is going to make mistakes and the offense is going to be counted on. It’s not that defense won the game or special teams won the game. Clemson won the game, because that’s what teams are supposed to do.”

Blanks showed maturity in realizing the tough level of competition Clemson can expect from its opponents while the Tigers are ranked high in the polls. He doesn’t expect any easy wins.

“Well one thing that people have to understand is that, being where we are, people are going to play their best game against us. I can guarantee you that the NC State we played wasn’t the NC State that Richmond played,” Blanks explained. “So, it’s just the fact that we’re going to get everyone’s best punch. We expected that, we didn’t expect to go in and beat NC State 40 to nothing.”

Clemson’s defense has matured during every game this season. Blanks credited some of the improvement during Thursday’s game to his teammates being disciplined in their positions. That discipline led to the squad getting off the field after third downs throughout a majority of the game and is something they can build upon in the future.

Defensive coordinator Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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has commented that he hopes to see the defensive line and secondary assist each other in their play more often. While Blanks believes he has had some success with coverage sacks and helping the D-line, he was once again humble.

“I give all of the credit to the D-line. We have an amazing group of guys, and I appreciate those guys and how hard they play. I shed all of the praise to them,” he commented.

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