Who is Playing? Defensive Back

CLEMSON, SC - SEPTEMBER 24: Rashard Hall #31 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates after a defensive stop against the Florida State Seminoles during their game at Memorial Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)


In this article we'll look at the Defensive Back participation charts. While Clemson plays a 4-3 base, we're almost never in a 4-3 set, and against most opponents we spend a majority of the game in a Nickel 4-2-5 and an occasional Dime set.  In the Nickel, we use 2 LBs (Mac and Money), and there is no requirement that the Money be a true LB (Gilchrist often played the Money). Occasionally, against a strong passing squad, you'll see the FS or SS used there.

Our defense has played 9 games with an average snap count of 67 per = 605 defensive snaps total. Starters should rack up about ~650 snaps a year, and it looks like Sensabaugh never once comes off the field.

DB Participation
Player Pos Snaps Tackles TFL INTs PBU
Rashard Hall FS 428 45 2 1 1
Coty Sensabaugh CB 608 29 1 1 6
Jonathan Meeks SS 507 38 1 2 5
Darius Robinson CB 319 17 1 1 1
Xavier Brewer CB/N 459 35 1 1 6
Martin Jenkins CB/N 93 7 0 0 2
Robert Smith SS 49 9* 0 1 0
Cartlon Lewis FS 99 8 0 0 1
Kantrell Brown FS 39 8* 0 1 0
Bashaud Breeland CB 274 24 0 1 1
Garry Peters CB/S 8 4* 0 0 0

*- a majority on ST

You can see Sensabaugh never comes off the field. He's a surer open field tackler, but rarely makes a play, so the only ones getting tackled are the ones coming right at him. He may not be the worst cover corner on the squad based on the youth of the others, but he's not a guy I'd want on an island. It looks like Steele is swapping Brewer out thus far with the other youngsters, or spelling Robinson with Breeland (or vice versa) in 5-man sets.

The second thing that leaps out to me is the number of tackles by Hall, and the lack of pass breakups for some guys. Hall should have more than Meeks at this point. Hall missed the Wofford game due to injury and his snap counts have gone up and down since, probably due to the knee. His instincts will have to compensate for the speed, and they have not so far.

Xavier Brewer starts at one CB spot when we face an opponent that plays from a regular personnel grouping, and otherwise the Nickel spot. Recall he was held out of the Wofford game. Brewer has improved his game as expected this year, and is no longer the guy getting roasted. He's occasionally spelled by Jenkins there a Nickel, but Jenkins really didnt play at all until his 60 snaps at Maryland. I thought he played well enough there to deserve more PT against UNC, at least in the 4th QTR when it didnt matter, but we didnt run him out. Expect Jenkins' snap total to go up with Brewer playing more SS.

Robert Smith was thrown to the wolves vs Wofford (31 snaps), got burnt, and hasn't played much since. We were led to believe he'd spell Meeks, but really hasnt.

Meeks has 5 PBUs, which is strange since he never uses his arms. His tackle count should be higher than Hall's, but again you see that he's got no backup. No one is here to push him or Hall right now. Peters is not ready, and Lewis won't ever be anything more than a contributor, so you can see why Brewer is being moved. We need another pass defender in Cover 2, and Breeland has shown that he deserves more PT.

Cortez Davis is on RS, and he'll be needed to push someone for PT. I think he is eventually a FS, and would make a good understudy to Hall in his final season. We'll need Smith to push Meeks or T.J. Burrell to do so, because I just feel like theres a talent deficiency in terms of depth in the back. Our staff apparently is trying to fix that, since we're bringing in a bunch of safeties. Blanks is needed badly, either at CB or FS, with Geohaghan, Williams, and Tankersley all likely flipping between CB and FS.

Statistically our pass defense is not bad, just prone to the big play that typically plagues man/man coverage teams. Our passing yardage allowed is 3rd in the conference, as is the number of INTs. The completion percentage allowed is 3rd as well at 54.8%. The passing efficiency defense is 43rd, the worst of our passing stats really. This is acceptable given the youth of the corners, but the play of the safeties has been just awful.

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