Top Three Questions: Defense

Even though the defense finished the last half of the 2004 season as the catalyst for Clemson's strong run, coordinator John Lovett was let go and Vic Koenning was hired in hopes of making the unit even better. And with the change comes a few questions for this year's defense.

1) What can fans expect out of Vic Koenning's new defensive scheme?
Much like last year, this year's defense will be an attacking unit rather than a read-and-react style. However, the main difference the average fan will notice is that the defense will be multi-formational unit that sometimes lines up with four linebackers and at other times three.

The new bandit position, played by Gaines Adams, is a position that is a cross between a linebacker and an end and will fluctuate between the two. He will drop back into coverage on passing downs, unless he's blitzing, and will attack the tailback on rushing downs.

That is the beauty of Koenning's defense, there are so many options. And should the defense perform at the high level many expect, this unit should be even better in the following years as more and more of Koenning's schemes are introduced.

For the 2005 season, roughly two-thirds of the entire defensive playbook will be used, with nearly the rest of it put in place for 2006.

However, if spring practice is any indication, there should be zero drop off from a year ago.

In fact, it may be even better.

2) Will there be quality depth this year?
This might even be a bigger question than that of what Koenning's defense will be like. Depth, without question, is the biggest concern for Koenning and the rest of the defensive coaches as fall practice gets started.

There's little depth at every single position on defense. However, Koenning is most worried about the depth at end and in the secondary.

At one end/bandit, there is Adams and his backup Cortney Vincent, while at the other there is only Charles Bennett. Should one of them go down to an injury, as of now it appears there's no one of quality ready to step in. Of course, as the season progress, that could change.

In the backfield, safties Jamaal Fudge and C.J. Gaddis, and cornerbacks Tye Hill and Sergio Gilliam are the starters, but after that, it's anybody's guess who will step up.

Chris Clemons is first and really the only backup at cornerback. And as a result, freshmen will be counted on to step in and offer help from the start. Also, there's very little in terms of backups there, too.

While coaches love to redshirt every freshman that enters the program, it's obvious that can't be the case with the Tigers this year. Expect to see several freshmen get playing time on defense simply because there's nobody else.

3) Will teams expose the secondary as the weakest link on defense?
As of now, it appears that will be the case. Gone are cornerback Justin Miller at safety Travis Pugh and the players taking their spots haven't been tested.

Gaddis and Gilliam are young and teams will look to throw in their direction from the get-go. Whether or not they can handle it remains to be seen.

If not, expect the Tigers to play a lot of zone and cover-two in hopes of trying to hide their inexperience.

However, should they exceed expectations and play like veterans, Koenning will be licking his chops at the all the possibilities that will be afforded to him. They most likely will be the difference between a good or average defense and a great defense.

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