Clemson Football: Grading the Defense Week 2 — South Carolina State

By Colby Lanham
Clemson DB Darius Robinson makes the tackle in Week 1 against UGA
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Clemson Tigers‘ offense certainly continued its mastery of tempo by totaling 512 total yards in their 52-13 victory over the South Carolina State Bulldogs, but that wasn’t the only highlight for the Tigers.

The other highlight? Their defense, which is steadily gaining confidence with its play these first two weeks. The defense picked up where it left off in Week 1, and looks to be in pretty good shape. But just how did the defense grade out in Week 2?

Defensive Line — AThe Tigers’ defensive line continues to make strides, and with the right mix of experience and potential, this group looks set for several seasons.

Defensive tackles Josh WatsonCarlos Watkins, Deshawn Williams and Grady Jarrett continued to be disruptive along the interior, while freshman defensive end Shaq Lawson continues to show great potential as a pass rusher while he learns to refine his raw ability.

The Tigers have solid rotation on all fronts, and saw contributions from D.J. Reader, Kevin Dodd, and Tavaris Barnes. The defensive line kept SC State quarterback Richard Cue under duress all game long, forcing him into mistakes and stuffing the Bulldogs’ running attack.

Linebackers — AIf there’s one group that Clemson nation has to be the most happy about on either offense or defense, it would be the linebackers.

A position that has seen its struggles before the arrival of Brent Venables as defensive coordinator, this group has been physical these first two weeks. Moving Spencer Shuey to the Will spot and keeping Stephone Anthony at the Mike position has only benefited this defense’s progression.

Both players seem to be in or around on every play, stop, or tackle. The play of these two and their combined knowledge of the defense, along with their communication and chemistry, has perhaps made this Clemson defense an underrated threat in the ACC. The linebackers were key in holding the Bulldogs to only 86 total rushing yards and keeping the backs under control for the entire game.

Secondary — AThe secondary is going to play most of the 2013 with a chip on its shoulder until they start to show some more flare and energy. Their performance against SC State was a good start, as cornerbacks Martin Jenkins and Darius Robinson both returned interceptions for touchdowns, a first in Clemson history.

This has been a group that has struggled with injuries, especially late last season when the Tigers were forced to appoint receiver Adam Humphries as an emergency option at cornerback. But both Jenkins’ and Robinson’s performance in this game warrants plenty of credit on their part, as both have had their challenges bouncing back from tough injuries.

When healthy, both have shown potential, and as the Tigers move forward into ACC play, they hope that their health allows them to see more of the field and energize what has become the biggest question for this team moving forward.

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