Show me a winning team and I will show you a team that has depth. Looking at the defensive statistics from the Clemson – Georgia game, it is hard to see how the defense played well, due to the fact that the Tiger defense gave up 35 points and over 500 yards of total offense to the Bulldogs. A lot of people like to look at yards, sacks, points, interceptions and tackles for loss as a way for judging a defense, but there is a stat that I came across that gives a good example of why Clemson’s defensive line was able to control the line of scrimmage and put pressure on UGA quarterback Aaron Murray. Defensive line coach Dan Brooks used a consistent rotation of lineman up front, in order to keep fresh legs on the field, and it paid off. Therefore, the statistic that was very telling was the number of snaps that each defensive lineman played, and how well distributed the playing time was.
Four defensive tackles played consistently, and they were led by Grady Jarrett, who played 46 snaps and registered eight tackles, while also drawing a holding penalty on a Georgia offensive lineman. Deshawn Williams played 26 snaps, and Josh Watson was on the field for 33 snaps, as they both finished with four tackles each. Carlos Watkins, along with Jarrett, got the start at DT, and played 34 snaps, recorded three tackles and showed that he is capable of applying pressure in the middle of the trenches. However, out of these four, Jarrett was by far the most impressive, with his discipline and attention to gap control. He led the team with three quarterback pressures, and if he was not pressuring Murray, then he was freeing up the edge for the much improved defensive ends.
Brooks also used four guys throughout the game at the defensive end position, with starters Corey Crawford playing 50 snaps and recording six tackles with 0.5 sack, and Vic Beasley, who played 47 snaps, used his speed and improved technique to sack the quarterback twice. Backups Tavaris Barnes and Shaq Lawson saw plenty of action as well, with Barnes playing 22 snaps with a sack, and Lawson playing 30 snaps and getting in on three tackles. With the humidity and possibility of cramps, the coaching staff used their rotation to perfection, making sure that the most energized players were on the field.
Crawford finally had a big game, coming up with an interception right before the half to end a Georgia drive. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables dialed up a zone blitz, with linebacker Stephone Anthony coming up the middle as Crawford dropped back into coverage. Crawford read Murray’s eyes, and picked off the pass to end the threat right before intermission. Numerous holding and blocking procedures were called against the UGA offense, as they were hindered all night by costly penalties and drive-killing sacks.
The best teams in the country always have depth, and that is the difference between a great team and a good team. Most teams always have starters good enough to compete with the opposing team, but depth is more times than not the deciding factor in a football game. Due to recruiting efforts and more familiarity to Venable’s defensive scheme, the Clemson defensive lineman have developed depth that will go a long way throughout the course of the 2013 campaign. There is still room for much improvement with this unit, but at least for Clemson fans, it is encouraging to see that there are eight capable defensive lineman who can hold their own with an SEC team that returned all five of their starting offensive lineman.
Travis Patterson, Writer for the ACC on Rantsports.com. Follow on Twitter @tpat20, https://twitter.com/tpat20