Time to step up: Defense

by - Senior Writer -

Expectations for the 2013 season are high, higher than at any point in recent memory. However, if the Clemson Tigers are to reach those expectations, several players have to reach their potential and have the kind of season that was envisioned when they were recruited.

In other words, it’s time to step up. The players know it. The coaches know it. The media knows it. The fans know it.

Some of these players haven’t been in the forefront in the past because players have been in their way – Rod McDowell has played behind NFL players like Jamie HarperJamie Harper
Running Back
#8 6-0, 235
Jacksonville, FL

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, C.J. SpillerC.J. Spiller
Pro Running Back
#28 5-11, 195
Lake Butler, FL

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and Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
Running Back
#23 5-10, 195
Moncks Corner, SC

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. Others simply haven’t taken put it all together on the collegiate level and had the kind of season they want.

Now is that time, and today we take a look at the defense.

*MLB Stephone AnthonyStephone Anthony
Jr. Linebacker
#12 6-3, 235
Polkton, NC

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Anthony battled against Corico Hawkins (now Wright) in his first year at Clemson, won the starting job last season in fall camp and then was replaced by Spencer ShueySpencer Shuey
RS Sr. Linebacker
#33 6-3, 230
Charlotte, NC

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at mid-season. Anthony suffered a broken bone in his hand early in the season that set him back, but still finished with 77 tackles, good for fourth on the team.

The coaches moved Shuey to the outside in the spring, and defensive coordinator Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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raved about Anthony’s progress. He added muscle and weight in the off-season, and he certainly looks the part of a big-time middle linebacker.

If the Tigers are to make significant strides defensively, Anthony has to make those same kind of strides and be the leader of the defense.

*The entire secondary - I tried to think of one or two players in the secondary that need to step up, but the truth of the matter is the entire secondary needs to up its game. There were injuries galore last year – Bashaud BreelandBashaud Breeland
RS Jr. Cornerback
#17 6-0, 195
Allendale, SC

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, Darius RobinsonDarius Robinson
#21 5-10, 175
College Park, GA

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, Garry PetersGarry Peters
RS Jr. Defensive Back
#26 6-0, 195
Conyers, GA

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and Martin JenkinsMartin Jenkins
#14 5-10, 180
Roswell, GA

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all missed significant time in 2012, and Jenkins missed the entire season.

The Tigers have a shot at being special this season, but new secondary coach Mike ReedMike Reed
Defensive Backs Coach
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needs to find two corners that can both tackle and cover, and new safeties Travis BlanksTravis Blanks
So. Defensive Back
#11 6-1, 190
Tallahassee, FL

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and Robert SmithRobert Smith
Jr. Safety
#27 5-11, 210
St. George, SC

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have to eliminate the blown coverages and big plays that have been back-breakers in big games.

*DE Corey CrawfordCorey Crawford
Jr. Defensive End
#93 6-5, 270
Columbus, GA

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Crawford reminds me a lot of former Tiger Andre BranchAndre Branch
Defensive End
#40 6-5, 260
Richmond, VA

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– the talent and the athletic ability were always there for Branch, but it took until his senior season to finally break out. Crawford spent one season behind Branch after spending a year at Hargrave Military Academy, but was the starter a year ago and registered just one sack. Oddly enough, that is his only sack in 440 career snaps. He does have eight tackles for loss, six last season.

Against South Carolina in the regular season finale, we saw what happens when you can’t get consistent pressure on the quarterback and the secondary struggles with coverage – the opponent converts on third down and keeps drives alive.

There will be a new starter on the other side of the line – maybe Vic BeasleyVic Beasley
RS Jr. Defensive End
#3 6-3, 225
Adairsville, GA

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– but Crawford needs to turn into the playmaker Clemson coaches envisioned.

*P/KOS Bradley PinionBradley Pinion
So. Punter
#92 6-6, 230
Concord, NC

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Pinion saw part-time duty as the kickoff specialist and punter last season, backing up Spencer BentonSpencer Benton
Punter / Kicker
#13 6-1, 195
Myrtle Beach, SC

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at both spots. He punted nine times for a 39.4 yard average, but showed the big leg on a 51-yarder against Furman. The hope is that Clemson won’t have to punt much, but he has big shoes to fill after Clemson fans have seen Dawson ZimmermanDawson Zimmerman
Punter / Kicker
#96 6-2, 205
Lawrenceville, GA

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and Benton.

Now, it isn’t that Pinion hasn’t lived up to expectations or has failed – he was simply behind a pretty good player last season. Now the job is his, and he needs to be the player coaches thought he was coming out of high school. I think he can.

However, Pinion’s true value may lie in kicking off. When the Tigers failed to kick it off through the end zone last season, bad things happened. Think back to Florida St. If Pinion can find the consistency to make opponents start at the 25-yard line every time, he earns his scholarship and more.

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Subject (Replies: 28) Author
Front Page Story: Time to step up: Defense
TigerNet News
Breeland could be the weakest link....
Breeland was our best cover corner last year
Why are we talking about Peters again?***
Martin Jenkins could end up taking the other corner spot.
Chuckston T-Man
Jenkins is probably too short for the outside CB spot
Shuey to the outside doesn't make sense to me. Hope that
Re: Agreed
Shuey will defend the run fine. His instincts are the best
In Venables system the Mike and Will are both pretty much
hmmmm, I saw something different but regardless this is
Re: Breeland could be the weakest link....
Re: Breeland could be the weakest link....
Any thoughts on Kelan Jones? Think he will get PT***
Re: Any thoughts on Kelan Jones? Think he will get PT***
Jones is working on the MIKE and WILL. 34 plays SAM LB
Re: Any thoughts on Kelan Jones? Think he will get PT***
Re: Re: Agreed
Wow, it's amazing you see nothing about steward. I thought
Re: Jones is working on the MIKE and WILL. 34 plays SAM LB
Sorry, have to disagree about Pinion.
Prime T. Tiger
Re: Sorry, have to disagree about Pinion.
Country Gentleman®
Benton played to his potential last year ... and
Re: Re: Sorry, have to disagree about Pinion.
Re: Martin Jenkins could end up taking the other corner spot.
Re: Front Page Story: Time to step up: Defense
Louie Le Lip®
Good points!***

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