Where to begin? It's turned out that many of the upperclassmen defensive coordinator Vic Koenning were counting on have fizzled out. It's the freshmen that have defensive line coach Marion Hobby licking his chops. But the big downfall is there is very little pressure on the quarterback coming from this part of the defense. What has happened to Charles Bennett? One sack and two hurries? That's not what a coach expects out of his defensive end.
This unit has also had problems containing the run. There have been several big runs this season against the defense and it starts up front. There is potential to get better, but it will take some time as the younger players, like Rashaad Jackson and Phillip Merling mature.
Gaines Adams at Bandit hasn't been stellar, either. Through the first five games, he was having missed assignments more frequently than most on the defense. Koenning has said from Day One, that Adams was the prototypical Bandit, nonetheless, it has still been less than what Koenning expected.
Coming into the season, it was believed this was going to be the defense's strongest area. And while it hasn't been bad, it's hasn't been lights out, either. This area has missed a lot of tackles, but at the same time made some monstrous hits. It has been as up-and-down as any part of the team.
One problem is speed. Anthony Waters simply doesn't have the lateral quickness as his predecessor Leroy Hill has last season. He doesn't have the same quickness as most middle linebackers in the ACC have. And it seems all of these players are usually a step behind.
It was a serious concern entering the season and it still is a major concern now. All that can be said is thank goodness for cornerback Tye Hill. His play, especially in the last two games, has been for the most part outstanding. He missed a play here and there, but that happens to everybody. But as for the rest of the unit, ugh.
Sergio Gilliam has had so many problems at cornerback that the team moved running back Duane Coleman to defense to try and help solve some of the issues. Coleman has improved with each week and may have the position down pretty well by season's end. As for Gilliam, he doesn't have good speed, which means he can't get himself out of position, which is exactly what he's been prone to do.
C.J. Gaddis hasn't worked out at safety as most had hoped and thought he would. He's now been replaced in the starting lineup by Mike Hamlin. For somebody that is supposed to have as much athletic ability as him, you have to ask why is he having so many problems?
If it weren't for placekicker Jad Dean, this area might receive a failing grade. The punting has been atrocious, ranking 112th out of 117 teams (net). There have also been three blocked punts this season.
As far as punt returns go, had it not been for Stuckey's return for a touchdown against Texas A&M, this area would rank in the 80s nationally. And with someone the moves of Stuckey, that, too, is unacceptable.
The kickoff coverage is undergoing some revamping after getting torched against N.C. State. If Dean doesn't kick it out of the end zone, all bets are off. On returning kickoffs, Clemson ranks 69th, which is well below average.
Yes, if not for Dean, who is having an All-ACC type season, it would be a failing grade.
For the first time in a long time, all the pieces of the puzzle seem to be in place with the coaching staff. Spence's offense shows promise at times, while Koenning's defense is still a work in progress. But it, too, has played well.
There are, however, still some issues, like what happened against Boston College and Wake Forest in the closing minutes. Each time, the offense play calling was highly suspect and each time, head coach Tommy Bowden said he overruled Spence and told him what to call. Against the Eagles, it was to play for overtime rather than take a chance to win it in regulation.
Against Wake Forest, it was to try and sit on the ball with still minutes on the clock with only a three-point lead. And don't even get started on the fake field goal call.
After the debacle on offense, defensively against the Demon Deacons, they were unable to prevent them from marching the length of the field for the game-winning drive to crush the spirits of Clemson fans everywhere.
While these units are by no means displaying the finished product, it still has been rough at times, which is why the Tigers sit at 3-3. And the grade is as average as the record.
Midseason Report Card: Defense
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