Clemson Tigers: Grading the Tigers’ Defense Week 5 vs. Wake Forest

Clemson safety Jerrod Williams tries to take take Wake Forest receiver Michael Campanaro.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The past few weeks the Clemson Tigers‘ defense has played with a chip on its shoulder, and defensive coordinator Brent Veanbles is preaching for improvement every week.

And this week may have been their best performance yet, as the defense held the Wake Forest Demon Deacons to 222 total yards and only a lone touchdown in the Tigers’ 56-7 victory. The Tigers’ defense was active all game long, and big plays were limited for the Demon Deacs’ offense, especially on the ground.

With the Tigers’ defense gradually becoming a bigger factor, just how did the defense grade out this week?

1. Defensive Line: B

With no Carlos Watkins available due to his car accident the previous week, DJ Reader and Deshawn Williams had to step up to the plate, and they performed well in place of the sophomore defensive tackle. Defensive end Vic Beasley raised his sack number to six on the season, as the Wake Forest offensive line had its hands full with Clemson’s pass rush all game long. They were part of the reason that the Deacs were held to a mere 60 rushing yards.

2. Linebacker: A

Stephone Anthony and Spencer Shuey continue to be one of the best linebacker duos in the ACC as they combined for eight tackles and continue to keep the Tigers’ front seven active. They held the Deacs’ rushing attack to 60 yards, didn’t allow a rushing touchdown, and were solid tacklers all game long. Talented freshman Ben Boulware also saw time in the second half and  recorded an interception. Brent Venables has to be pleased with the depth and performance of his group despite the loss of Kellen Jones and the way his group has responded to adversity.

3. Secondary: B-

Tackling issues remain in the secondary, and safety depth behind Travis Blanks and Robert Smith remains a concern. Bashaud Breeland had perhaps the best game of all the defensive backs, totaling five tackles, four of which were solo and a sack. The one touchdown pass allowed by the defense was one where the safety, Blanks, did not rotate over to the receiver fast enough on a corner blitz in the red zone. The secondary is still the biggest question mark concerning Clemson’s defense, and splash plays by this unit are still at a premium. Guys like Breeland, Darius Robinson, Garry Peters and Martin Jenkins still have plenty to prove.

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