Coming into Saturday night's season opener against Alabama, it was thought Clemson's defense would be a strength of the team.
After all, three starters returned on the defensive line and all four returned in the secondary. In addition, it was thought more pure talent existed across the board at linebacker even if that talent was somewhat inexperienced.
Turns out, there's still plenty of work to be done.
Alabama grinded out almost 250 yards rushing in a surprisingly easy 34-10 win, dominating time of possession with a physical style of play that left the Tigers stunned.
So what happened?
It starts up front where Alabama's offensive line double teamed Clemson's defensive tackles on almost every single play and it continued into the linebackers where the Tigers' tackling got worse as the game went on.
"When a guy drags you four yards and then he goes down," defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said. "It was 3rd and 1, 3rd and 1.5, 3rd and 2. The offense is going to get 75 to 80 percent of those. That's what it was like all night. That's why they had those drives. We've got to find out a way to do a better job of getting our power base behind us and not lunging."
CUTigers.com also checked in with freshman linebacker Brandon Maye, who made his first start in his first career game this week to get his thoughts on what transpired:
Brandon you had 12 total tackles in your first game and even though you couldn't lead the team to the win you have to feel like you did pretty well for yourself in just your first game of college football.
Maye: Yes sir I think it was a pretty good start for me in my first game at Clemson. It was a pretty good start. All praise to God because he was the one that was playing for me Saturday but it was a good start.
Talk about some of the main issues you guys were dealing with out there against Alabama. What were they doing that gave you guys so many problems?
Maye: The main issue was they did a great job scheming us. Their offensive linemen were double teaming our d-tackles and then rubbing off to the linebackers. They just played a real physical game.
How do you try and correct that Saturday against The Citadel? What do you need to do differently?
Maye: As a unit, as a whole I think we missed 40 or 50 tackles. We have to wrap up and we have to stop them at the point of attack and make sure we are fundamentally sound. We have to make sure we drive them back after making contact because we didn't do that Saturday.
When you break your game down, you had 12 tackles but do you feel like you left some plays out there on the table?
Maye: I missed one tackle but I missed some impact plays too. If I would have saw things a little bit faster ... it was my first career start but seeing things faster would have allowed me to make more impact plays.
So how do you guys, from a mental perspective, get past this?
Maye: Well we just are looking ahead. You got to look at the bright side. Alabama plays in another conference. Our hunger is high and we've got a big sense of urgency right now for us.
So we know The Citadel can spread you out and do some things on offense to score some points. What do you have to do to stop those guys?
Maye: We've got to be mentally tough. They like to do a lot of zone-read and influence-trap and we just have to read our keys and make plays.
What Happened to the D?
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