McDaniel "pointed" in right direction for senior season

by - Senior Writer -
McDaniel is ready to be a leader for the entire team, not just the defense

CLEMSON – Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel burst onto the scene last season and placed himself squarely in the conversation when the best safeties in the nation are mentioned.

This season, McDaniel will again be counted on to provide big plays and leadership for a Clemson secondary that has to replace two starters in cornerbacks Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor, but McDaniel ‘s resume certainly shows he can do just that.

He was a first-team All-American by the Football Writers Association and a second team selection by five other services as a junior and is a top candidate for the 2010 Jim Thorpe Award.

The native of Tallahassee, FL led the ACC and ranked third in the nation in interceptions with eight last year, tied for the most in school history. He had 102 tackles to rank fourth on the team and was the only player in college football with at least eight interceptions and 100 tackles.

McDaniel cemented his status in Clemson's thrilling win at Miami (FL) when he had two interceptions, including one that he returned for a touchdown in the Tigers 40-37 overtime victory over the number-eight ranked Hurricanes. He was named National Defensive Back of the Week by the Bednarik Award Committee for that performance.

This past off-season, McDaniel rejected an opportunity to enter the NFL draft and will return for his senior year, which Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said was a wise move.

"DeAndre McDaniel is one of the top defensive players in the nation," Swinney says. "What he did last year in his first year as a safety was extraordinary. But, he has another level and he made a great decision coming back for his senior year. He will be the leader of the defense."

McDaniel was asked this past week if he was excited about being a leader for the defense, and he said he wants his leadership to move beyond jus the defense.

“Yes, I want to and will be a leader for the defense,” McDaniel said. “But I don’t want to be just a leader on just defense – I want to be a leader for the whole team. When you talk about great players, that is what they do. I want to be a vocal leader. I want to be a leader on and off the field. I want to lead by example, because I think we can do some great things this season.”

Butler and Chancellor had over 70 combined career starts at cornerback, but McDaniel said that he feels the secondary will be just as good or better simply because all the players now have a full year in defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s system.

“Look, both of them [Butler and Chancellor) are players,” McDaniel said. “But we have replaced them with two really good players in Marcus Gilchrist and Byron Maxwell, so there will be no drop-off in the secondary. Everybody played last year and they played a lot.

“Everybody who plays knows the system and knows what they are doing, whereas last year was our first year in the defense. We weren’t up to full speed, even for guys like Chris and Crez. They weren’t up to their full potential. Now, guys like Byron and Marcus, they made their mistakes last year. Now they know what they are doing. This is just another year for them.”

McDaniel was asked if all of the preseason hype and award talk mean anything to him, and his answer was an emphatic “no.”

“It doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “All that preseason stuff is just going off of what happened last year. If I don’t come out and do what I did last year, then it means nothing. I will be right back at the bottom of the barrel if I come out complacent. That is what this spring and summer are for – to come out and get better. I made a lot of plays last year, but I made a lot of mistakes, too. I left a lot of plays out there on the field, so I have to getter or none of that means anything.”

McDaniel had said before last season that the one team he always looked forward to playing were his hometown Florida St. Seminoles, and that his biggest wish was to be able to return a fumble or a punt for a touchdown against the Noles.

He didn’t quite get the touchdown, but did have a memorable play when he picked off Nole quarterback Christian Ponder late in the contest, and then briefly pointed at Ponder before the two collided. Ponder was injured on the play, and McDaniel said that he hears about “The Point” from almost everybody he runs into.

“That was like my team growing up, and I hear a lot about the point nearly everywhere I go,” he said. “I run into a lot of people, and they first thing they bring up is that. I meant to point at him, but I was just having fun out there. I didn't try to hurt him, but I did try to make him feel it. I can’t wait to go down and play them this year, and I am sure I will have a lot of people in the stands. Hopefully I can come up with another big time play.”

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