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Clemson vs Furman: Position Grades (Defense & ST)

Some worrying signs are emerging

NCAA Football: Furman at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Furman outgained the Tigers in DV.

That statement should never have been written, yet here we are. Some blame for this falls on the offense and special teams, which we will get to, but Furman moved the ball far too comfortably against our much more talented defense. Let’s take a look at how the groups faired.


The DEs did not play well, a theme that will continue through this article, mainly due to a lack of discipline. They didn’t set the edge well, couldn’t get consistent pressure, and failed to sniff out screen plays. Furman used our aggression against us and we will see this again. Teams know just how dangerous our DL is so they are going to find any way they can to get us out of position and play unsound football to gift them yards.

All the DEs struggled this game but none as badly as Kevin Swint. The converted LB looks out of place at DE right now. He’s not strong at the point of attack. He gets pushed out of his lane far too easily and doesn't provide consistent pressure on the QB. He’s currently logged 53 snaps this season due to Thomas’ injury and he hasn’t looked up to the task. Hopefully, he’ll turn the corner but for now, he is a liability that teams will exploit when he’s on the field.

Grade: C


The DTs also didn’t look as good as they did against GT but were still the best group on the field. Furman all but abandoned even trying to run up the A gap and instead looked to stretch the tigers wide to see if the DEs could set the edge, which they couldn’t. We were without Tyler Davis but the depth at DT is legit and Ruke more than filled the spot. Both Ruke and Bresee pushed the pocket, made plays, and looked good. Bresee is playing like a 1st round talent and Ruke will hear his name called early in the draft as well. The backups got a lot of snaps, which you want to see, and for the most part, were ok. In a game the D would probably like to forget, the DTs played well.

Grade: B


LB was a mixed bag. The starters were fine and Simpson was held more than once on Furman’s TD drive. There were a few times Carter and Simpson appeared to move out of position but it’s sometimes hard to tell with them since they can recover so quickly. That INT from Carter is hopefully a sign of more to come. The backups, however, outside of Bentley, really struggled. This will be a good training tape for this position and we shouldn’t be too concerned unless the sloppy play we saw becomes a recurring issue.

Grade: B-


Oh boy, we may have some issues. The DBs as a whole played the worst of the position groups. They were out of position, didn’t fill their gaps well, and were frankly picked on a bit by Furman. Furman’s QB was 30/39 for 256 yards and their top three WRs all averaged over 7 yards a catch. We have to clean this up by ACC play or NCST and Wake will exploit it.

Tyler Venables was the weak link in the secondary this week. He was abused more than once and seems to lack the athleticism to really play like we need him to. Nolan Turner also lacked athleticism but he made up for it by always being in the right position and tackling well. The freshman CBs also had a rough showing - both Pride and Lukus struggled with the snaps they played but we know how talented they are and these lumps they take will only make them better.

Teams fear our front seven so we should expect a bevy of screens and quick passes to combat our aggressive front. Our DBs aren’t showing the toughness we’d expect and are allowing too many free releases while also not setting the edge well enough when teams stretch us wide of run plays. Mukuba is a stud and we have the talent to be great in the back four, we just need them to grow up quickly. Hopefully, this is a game they’ll learn from and show improvement as they get more snaps.

Grade: D+


The defensive focus just wasn’t there this game. This will be Goodwin’s first real test as the face of the defensive staff. Venables’ presence alone was enough to ensure players didn’t rest on their laurels and get complacent. Goodwin needs to establish the same type of accountability in the players and make sure they aren’t reading their press clippings. The staff should be happy we have this on tape now because it’s better we deal with this early in the year rather than let it surprise us against a team capable of beating us later.

Furman was never going to truly threaten us and you have to give them credit for coming in with a great game plan that they executed well. Other teams will watch this tape and try and replicate the same type of success. The ball is in Goodwin’s court to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Grade: C


Special teams struggled this game. After an impressive first outing, Swanson ended up averaging 35 yards a punt. We heard in camp that punting was up and down and we’re seeing the same in the games. We need more of GT Swanson and a lot less of what we saw this past Saturday.

Will Taylor hasn’t looked as explosive or dynamic as he did last year returning punts. He also can not afford to muff punts and put the defensive in bad situations. The risk/reward isn’t there and we need a consistent and safe punt catcher out there if Taylor continues to struggle. Potter didn’t get any chances at FGs this week and continues to be great at kickoffs.

Grade: C


What grade do you give the Clemson Defense & ST against La Tech?

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