Swinney Speaks: Run Defense and Furman

Sep 8, 2012; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinny (left) yells at tight end Brandon Ford (80) during the second quarter of the game against the Ball State Cardinals at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-US PRESSWIRE


Furman is the next opponent for the Clemson Tigers before traveling down to Tallahassee for a Gameday match-up against Florida State. So who is Furman? Last year this team put up 35 points by running some uncharacteristic triple-option against Florida last year so they aren't afraid to throw completely new looks at the defense. Furman has started out 0-2 but those two losses were by one point to Samford and in triple overtime to Coastal Carolina. They will be starting true freshman and Greer native Reese Hannon who had to come off the bench in the last game because their normal quarterback Dakota Derrick got injured. With regards to injuries Swinney expects to have Giff, Tig and Beasley available but no word on how much they will play.

Furman does have a good, physical rusher in Jerodis Williams who rushed for over a 1,000 yards last year. He is a bigger, power back so it will be a nice test to see if our run defense has improved. I really didn't think our run defense could get much worse but these past two games have been frustrating. I was set on giving the run defense a pass after the Auburn game but Mississippi State completely shut down the Auburn ground attack, so when combined with the Ball State game it doesn't inspire much confidence. We are 101st in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game at 216 and 115th in yards per carry at 5.6 (about the same number as last year). We have allowed 15 running plays of ten yards or more and 5 plays of 20 yards or more (only a handful of teams in all of college football like Fresno State and Tulane have given up more big plays). Oh and lets not just attribute this to the second and third team players--the starters on defense played well into the second half of the game.

Publicly Swinney is taking the more encouraging, optimistic view of the defense but even he got on the rushing defense saying:

"We’ve got to get things right defensively. When you’ve got teams that are really running power football at you, you have to be in the right gaps. We have some fundamental things that are very correctable. We’ve really improved a lot, but in the run game, it only takes three or four plays, and the next thing you know, you’ve had a bad day.

"The guys want to be good. That’s what I like. They are dialed in. They want to correct things. This is a young group of football players on the defensive side. There are a bunch of young guys learning things, seeing themselves for the first time a lot on film. They’re going to get better. There’s no doubt about it. We’re talented over there. As long as they’ll keep the right kind of attitude, they’ll be fine."

Venables, starting at the 4:12 mark, gave the most colorful answer of the day to a question about depth chart changes (the name of the video is Bent Venables, nice TigerNet).

"What do you want us to try different? What are you fishing at? I haven't thought of it that way...hmmm...Let me think...Nope...There isn’t. We just need to get good at who we are and what we’re doing now. Get our guys comfortable with what we’re doing. We’re too inconsistent as it is. They just need to continue to get experience. It’s a long season, very typical of most teams, in particular one where you don’t have a lot of returning experience who hasn’t played much...We’re going to continue trying to sharpen the things we’re doing and get guys to improve where they’re at. "

So don't expect to see many changes in personnel as we move towards FSU. No one asked specifically about Brewer and if he would be better suited to play CB, for example. Venables surprisingly said that he felt like the light had come on for Stephone Anthony and that he was becoming more and more comfortable. We really need our LB's to play with better gap discipline, it seems to me, in order to really progress as a defense (looking forward to Dr. B's take on this after the film breakdown). He also had a ton of good things to say about Blanks.

"Travis Blanks was all over the place. God, that guy’s good."

Expect to see more playing time for Blanks, Watson and DJ Reader as the weeks progress and during the Furman game. Venables said Blanks plays at a fast level, uses his hands and plays physical "for a long, quote-unquote, wiry, skinny guy." The plan is for Blanks to ultimately move to free safety but if Brewer continues to play poorly and Blanks continues to impress will Venables make the switch? When asked about blitz packages Venables gave this insight into his thinking about stopping the zone play that has plagues our run defense.

It’s hard to pressure with any kind of consistency if you don’t blitz the run game till you stop the run game out of base. That’s how you’ve got to build your defense, at least that’s how we’re going to. We’re not going to feel like we’ve got to run an all-out blitz to stop a zone play. A zone play is not a trick play.

I was pleased to hear that players on the D-line were not satisfied with their performance. Here is Josh Watson:

"I don’t like it at all. We can score 50-something points, I was still unhappy after the] game, because it’s exactly what it is, testing your manhood. Just running right up the middle, that’s unacceptable, no matter whom it is."

Some final Swinney notes: he has seen Benton hit from 70 yards but was confident he could hit from 60. Venables and Swinney got into before halftime because Venables was worried about remaining time on the clock and putting his defense in a bad position (also because, really, who kicks it from 61 yards with 8 seconds left??). On Sunday Swinney downplayed it, said it was nothing and all indications are that everything was settled at halftime.

TDP is close to hiring a nutritionist and Swinney is lobbying for hiring a chef as well. He said the PAW dining/eating facility is not being used to its greatest benefit, yet. It sounds like Swinney is going to make nutrition and diet more of a priority moving forward.

Sammy Watkins is back.

Swinney has names for each day of the week apparently. Mental Monday. TANOGA Tuesday. Working Man’s Wednesday, Team Thursday, Focus Friday, Successful Saturday, Spiritual Sunday. (TANOGA I believe means Take Away NO Give Aways) Nothing like waking up to a slogan.

Dabo either misspoke or confirmed that we will play Georgia in the home opener next season.

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