Talking with Tig

CLEMSON - Senior linebacker Jonathan ‘Tig' Willard reflects on the first six games and looks ahead to the last half of his final season at Clemson.

What kind of improvements do you feel the linebackers have made, as a whole? Their gap control, recognition and things like that?
Willard: I feel like everybody has basically learned it. The main thing with us, is just learning our gaps and knowing the d-line's stunts, where they're going to be and how to play off of them. That was, basically, the main thing coming into the season, learning what the d-line is doing and being able to read off of them.

As a linebacker group, halfway through the season, how do you feel you've progress?
Willard: I feel like we've got more depth than we did last year. I feel like our first string guys and our second string guys are on the same page, and everybody can come in and play. I feel like, as a group, I feel like everybody has the same standard, everybody is willing to make adjustments. I feel like the linebacker corps has really improved a lot.

Going into the bye week, where do you feel like the defense needs to improve?
Willard: The main thing is tackling. That's, basically, the biggest aspect of the game, getting the other person to the ground. I feel we need to focus more on tackling. The DBs might focus on looking on the ball, just going up and getting the ball. The linebackers will focus more on tackling, reading off of the d-line, more eyes and hands. Just going in and attacking the ball.

Do you think going live and cutting more last week during practice helped against Georgia Tech?
Willard: Yes sir. I felt like practice was way harder than the actual game. I feel like we cut way more. I feel like we were well prepared for when Georgia Tech came. The cut blocking, everybody was on their feet and just running. I felt really good about going live all week.

How would you evaluate your play through the first half of the season?
Willard: I feel like I played very average. I feel like there is still a lot to improve on -- knowledge-wise, knowledge of the defense, knowing where I'm supposed to be, and just more film study. My problems are things that can be easily corrected, like eyes -- using face and hands, getting off of blocks and pursuing the ball more.

Going back to tackling, was it difficult watching film with coach Venables after some of the struggles you guys had? Was he hard on you guys?
Willard: I think the outside linebackers played fairly well. It wasn't really difficult watching the film. We know we're not going to see that offense again. He kind of let some things go, but other things he was like, ‘you've got to do this better.' Top Stories