Whatever it Takes

CLEMSON — New Clemson defensive backs coach Charlie Harbison has a track record of teaching his defensive backs to be hard-hitting tacklers that don't shy away from landing that game-changing plays.

Earlier this year in a Week 3 matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles, Harbison's style shined through when one of his former pupils – Philadelphia safety Brian Dawkins – literally flew in from the right side on a blitz and stripped the ball from Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger just before he went to throw the ball in the closing minutes of their game.

The play sealed the Eagles' 15-6 victory and was just one of many reasons the former Clemson Tiger was named to his seventh NFL Pro Bowl earlier this month – a record for a former Clemson player.

Though Harbison has little to do with Dawkins success in the NFL, what the future Hall of Famer learned from the 49-year old Harbison has not been forgotten.

"It's the athletes that make plays, I just coach them," a modest Harbison said.

Harbison has coached a bunch of them, especially at Clemson. He served as the defensive backs coach at Clemson from 1995-97 under then head coach Tommy West and helped the Tigers to three consecutive bowl appearances. His 1995 defensive backs had four players that went on to play in the NFL.

That list includes Dawkins, who earned All-America honors in 1995 when he led the ACC in interceptions with six. Harbison also coached Super Bowl Champion Dexter McCleon, first-round draft choice Antwan Edwards, and former Washington Redskins safety Leomont Evans.

"I like Coach Harbison so far," freshman corner Xavier Brewer said. "I have talked to him one-on-one and I'm going to like playing for him."

"I redshirted and I took it as a chance for me to have a year to get stronger, get faster and get better so I will have a chance to get on the field next year," Brewer said.
Harbison will more than likely like coaching Brewer. The 18-year old freshman definitely has the potential to be one of those athletes that makes plays.

Like Dawkins, Brewer is a native of Jacksonville, Fla., where he was a first-team All-First Coast selection as a senior at Bartram Trail High School and was named to the Florida Times-Union Super 11 Team. And also like Dawkins, Brewer has been known to lay a hit or two on opposing players.

"I know Coach Harbison likes playmakers and people that can hit. I can do that," Brewer said.

It's that kind of confidence, and the fact he had a knack for making the big play, that earned Brewer the ranking as the 13th best cornerback coming of high school last year by Scout.com.

Being that Clemson was loaded in the defensive secondary this year, Brewer did not pout when he was told he was being redshirted. Instead, he took advantage of the extra time he was given in order to be the best defensive back he can be.

"I didn't think about it. I just wanted to come in and work as hard as I could and whatever happened, happened," he said. "I redshirted and I took it as a chance for me to have a year to get stronger, get faster and get better so I will have a chance to get on the field next year.

"It is definitely an advantage. I think everything happens for a reason. You have two options when you take a redshirt. You can either pout about it and feel sorry for yourself and not work or you can take it, work hard and get better.

"You can say that it is a blessing."

Brewer says the coaches have spent a lot of time with him over the last five months getting him stronger and bigger for the spring. On the field, he says he just tried to improve his technique by watching the veterans players like Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler.

He says it has also helped going one-on-one in practice every day against the ACC's all-time reception leader in Aaron Kelly and other guys like Jacoby Ford, Tyler Grisham and C.J. Spiller.

"I haven't faced this many good receivers at one time before so that has really helped me a lot," Brewer said. "I'm looking forward to this off-season and being on the field with them in one-on-one situations. That's going to make me better."

And he knows that will get him on the field next year for sure.

"This off-season I'm going to work as hard as I can and do all the extra things that I can and then just let my ability to make plays on the field speak for itself," Brewer said. "I will just see how it goes in the spring. "If Coach (Harbison) wants me on the field, then I will get on the field. I will get on there in special teams if I have too. That doesn't bother me. I will just do what I can."


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