Willard a fan of live tackling during practice

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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made news last week when he announced that his team would have live tackling during practice on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, a move away from the usual practice of “thud” tackling where the defender wraps up the ball carrier but doesn’t take him to the ground.

Linebacker Tig Willard said Tuesday that he expects the practice – which started the week of the Boston College game two weeks ago – to continue, and that he actually likes the concept.

“I think we are going to keep doing it. At least for now,” Willard said during an interview session in the West Zone. “I think it is something we will continue to see over the next two or three weeks. And then maybe we will knock it down to just Tuesday and back off on Wednesday. I think it is a good thing. The more practice we get in tackling, the better. It will really help us and at the end of the season we will have more tackles than missed tackles.”

Last week, the Tigers continued the practice as they prepared to face Georgia Tech, and even had the scout team practicing Tech’s famous cut blocking, prompting defensive coordinator Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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to say Saturday that the injury list was quite lengthy by Friday.

Willard said last week’s practice was actually harder than the game itself.

“I felt like practice was way harder than the actual game,” he said. “I felt like we got cut way more in practice. I felt like we were well-prepared when Georgia Tech came in. The cut blocks – I felt like everybody played them good and kept their feet. I felt really good about going live all week.”

The Tigers prepared for Tech quarterback Tevin Washington by first using freshman quarterback Chad KellyChad Kelly
Fr. Quarterback
#11 6-2, 210
Buffalo, NY

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in the role of Washington, and later used freshman wide receiver Germone HopperGermone Hopper
Fr. Wide Receiver
#5 6-0, 175
Charlotte, NC

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in the role.

“We had Chad in there for a little bit,” Willard said. “That was good because he is so competitive. And then we had G-Hop and he was in there running around. We know nobody is as fast as G-Hop. And by the end of the week, I felt like every scout team guy was going to get hurt. We had everybody pumped up.”

The Tigers are off this weekend, and Willard said he expects the tackling lessons to continue.

“The main thing is tackling,” he said. “That is the biggest aspect of the game, to get the other person on the ground. I feel like we are going to focus more on tackling, and the defensive backs might focus on looking at the ball and going and getting the ball. For the linebackers, it is just going in and tackling the ball.”

Willard was asked why he thinks tackling is a bit of a lost art, and he said it might be the difference in the players.

“It [tackling] is the most basic fundamental,” he said. “You have more elusive backs like [Andre] Ellington, who is going to sit there and shake you and then try to get away. It is not like back in the day, where guys will just run downhill and try and run you over. Now you have running backs that will stop and go, stop and go. Now it is more you trying to get your body in front of theirs and deliver a blow.”

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