Spring Practice Insider: Defense Improving

The Clemson Tigers returned to Death Valley earlier this afternoon for their second official scrimmage of spring practice. We've got several insider news and notes regarding the team, including comments from linebackers' coach David Blackwell and defensive coordinator John Lovett.

Defensive improvement has been a theme heard from the coaching staff time and time again this spring, and Saturday afternoon in Death Valley was no exception.

Head coach Tommy Bowden, defensive coordinator John Lovett, and linebackers coach David Blackwell all seemed pleased with the performance of the defense after Saturday's scrimmage.

Coach Blackwell in particular was pleased with his linebackers, but he also noted several areas that still need improvement.

"We dominated that scrimmage right up until the goal line," said Blackwell. "We've got to get better in goal line situations."

Blackwell also added that both Anthony Waters and Nick Watkins have improved tremendously over the course of the last week of practice. Waters, a rising sophomore, and Watkins, a redshirt freshman, have been involved in one of the most intriguing battles of spring practice.

Waters recorded a team high 11 tackles Saturday, but that won't be enough to keep Watkins on the bench.

"Nick has closed the gap," Blackwell said. "Lets put it that way. Anthony has got to get better in goal line situations and become a more physical tackler. He's a physical player; he just needs to become a more physical tackler. They've both had a great week of practice though. "

Both players are trying to claim a spot on the first team at the JACK linebacker position after the departure of senior John Leake.

Coach Lovett also added that that he's seen continual improvement out of the defense this spring, but just as important, he's also starting to notice more team chemistry.

"We've gotten better the last two scrimmages," said Lovett. "There's no question. Goal line is still a concern. The kids are working hard though and giving a good effort, and they are starting to get a chemistry going."

Tommy Bowden was also pleased with the improvement made by the defense this week, but he also echoed the sentiments of his defensive coordinator regarding Saturday's scrimmage.

"We didn't score a touchdown until we got inside the 20-yard line," said Bowden.

"The defense played well today but we're not as mentally tough as we need to be and that showed out there when we went into goal line. The offense continued to win that battle. And, when we practiced coming off the goal line, the offense got a first down every time."

Other Notes
* When asked about his secondary, Coach Lovett said that as of right now, he wouldn't feel comfortable putting Kyle Browning into the game as a cornerback.

* Bowden added that he thought C.J. Gaddis made progress Saturday as a cornerback. On one play, the former QB almost picked off a pass on a quick-out pattern, but the ball was thrown so hard that he couldn't quite bring it in after making a diving attempt.

* Gaines Adams had one of the biggest plays of the day when he made a leaping interception of Charlie Whitehurst on a pass that hit his facemask. "I just jumped up, and the ball hit my facemask and I brought it in," said Adams. "I wasn't really expecting it, but then it happened and I caught it."

* Duane Coleman had the biggest hit of the day, delivering a crushing blow to Robert Reese, who's helmet came flying off and rolled about 10 yards down the field.

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