Editor’s Note: As part of our season preview, we threw out several discussion questions to part of the writing staff. The idea was to generate a bit of discussion about several key questions for Clemson’s 2016 season. Below is our final question in our season preview.
Brian: CB was always going to be a bit of a weakness this year. What are your expectations for 2016 and do you think this will be where Clemson sinks or swims as a team this year?
Coach Craft: Corner might not be the strength it has been the last two years with Mack, Gambler, and Tank, but it still will be better than the 2013 group and certainly 2012. Remember we had Darius Robinson pulling heavy snaps back then. Mullen is the X factor here and V will just roll with two if he has to. I think one will emerge on the other side of Tank from the Fields, Mullen, and Edmund group. Carter is a glue guy who can help in a pinch like the Fire Ant Martin Jenkins used to. I will once again say THANK THE LORD Tank came back this year. For me, Clemson sinks or swims with health in two or three spots. Tank's health is one of those for certain.
Brian: Yea without Tank we'd be screwed. I'm a little skeptical about the Mullen hype. Maybe just because it is practice, but I want to see what happens when he gets tested. Tank got tested last year and rose to the challenge. Can Mullen do the same? And if he can't will Fields or Edmund be able to do it.
I do like with our CBs that we have a bit of depth. Yes, outside of Tank they are all unknown, but Fields, Mullen, and Edmund should be able to at least be competent.
Alex Craft: Right now the only weakness in the starting unit can be found at field corner, but Venables himself said he isn’t all too worried. If there’s one coach whose optimism isn’t cause for an eye roll, it’s Brent Venables. Between Mullen and Fields there is a world of talent, and the competition on gamedays won’t be near the level they face in practice against Mike Williams, Deon Cain, etc.
I don’t expect much of a change in strategy in how Venables attacks a defense; he will live and die with aggression: stuffing the run with his safety help and trusting his corners outside. Sure, there’s no Mackensie Alexander out there anymore, but Venables won’t suddenly call a bunch of man cover 2 to protect the cornerbacks (which would then expose Boulware in coverage). He will harry the quarterback and trust his corners with a lot of cover 3 and cover 4 as usual.
Dbbm: Between this and defensive end thank god Auburn can't really pass.
Brian: Very true. And what worries me here is what happens if teams can pick on whomever is opposite Tank. How will we, if we even do so, cover at all with our safeties and LBs. As we talked about with our DEs, our ability to generate a pass rush is going to be critical as well. If we can’t get to the QB life is going to be bad.