A clean slate

CLEMSON — It's not only a new year for the Clemson football team, but it is a new year for safety DeAndre McDaniel.

Like his team, McDaniel seemed as if he was stuck in the mud last year and the more he spun his tires the further in he would go.

Simply put, he was bogged down long before the season even started.

An off the field issue involving charges that he assaulted his ex-girlfriend hit the news by mid-summer and were not resolved until he agreed to enter a Pre Trial Intervention (PTI ) program just before the season started.

When the season finally began, McDaniel did not appear to be the same player. Of course it didn't help that he was trying to learn a new position as he moved from safety to the strong side linebacker position. But he wasn't as aggressive either and he wasn't hitting as hard as he did when he was a freshman.

It was almost as if he was still distracted from the events that happened over the summer.

"It was kind of stressing in the beginning, but I knew it would all work out. I prayed on it," McDaniel said.

Eventually, McDaniel was back to form and it could not have come at a better time. With the Tigers just two weeks removed from the head coaching change and the team desperately in need of win of any kind, McDaniel made his first big hit of the season when he hit Boston College's Clarence Megwa and jarred the ball loose for a big turnover late in the game.

The play set up a field goal and virtually sealed the 27-21 victory, Clemson's first over the Eagles since BC joined the ACC in 2005.

From that point on McDaniel seemed to be his old self. He finished the year fifth on the team in tackles with 77 and he caused a fumble and then picked it up and raced it in for a touchdown in the Gator Bowl. He also had an interception in a big road win at Virginia.

"If DeAndre gets around the ball, he is going to catch it," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. "He has great instincts. He has looked very good out there."

McDaniel said he was able to get himself back on track once he put what happened in the summer behind him.

"I had to put all that behind me," he said. "I got a chance at PTI instead of going through all the court stuff. It was an opportunity for me to look forward to the future."

"It's too early to say right now, but he is a talent," Clemson secondary coach Charlie Harbison said. "He is a special player. I like what I have in him right now. He is a special guy and a great guy to coach and teach." (Roy Philpott/CUTigers.com)

His future now has him back at strong safety where he will try to replace All-ACC performer Michael Hamlin. Not an easy task considering Hamlin has been one of the top three tacklers on the team the last two years and was one of the all-time career leaders in interceptions and interception return yardage.

"The position I played last year was basically like a DB position anyway, but now I'm just further back," McDaniel said. "I guess now I have to fill the shoes left by Mike."

Even though those are big shoes to fill, his new position coach likes his chances in getting the job done.

"It's too early to say right now, but he is a talent," Clemson secondary coach Charlie Harbison said. "He is a special player. I like what I have in him right now. He is a special guy and a great guy to coach and teach."

McDaniel says Harbison is really pushing the secondary to be the best and he is asking him to step up and be a leader, not just in the secondary, but on the team.

"The coaches know I have a lot of respect on the team and a lot of people will listen to me," the rising junior said. "They want me to step up and be a leader. I just felt it was time for me to grow up and do that."

Swinney plans on giving McDaniel that opportunity, even though he does have a strike against him.

"He has to make good decisions," the Clemson coach said. "I don't ask a lot of these guys. Just go to class, be good citizens and give great effort. That's my three rules. That's not very complicated so as long as they can all live by that then we will be okay.

"Some guys have more money in the bank than others based on decisions they have made in the past. Now there is nothing being held against DeAndre. He has had an issue that he had dealt with before I became the head coach here so he has a clean slate with me, but he has to continue to make good decisions just like the rest of the guys."

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