Clemson's Run Defense Showing Improvement

By Travis Patterson
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

There were some major questions regarding Clemson‘s run defense after the game against Georgia.  Well, over the course of the past three games, Clemson has improved dramatically when it comes to stopping the run.  In the opening week the Bulldogs rushed for 222 yards, with 75 of them coming on one play.  Todd Gurley really made an impact and made the Clemson rush defense look very weak.  However, it is safe to say now that Gurley is one of the premiere backs in the nation, and he has the ability to put up staggering numbers against any opponent.  The Tigers held other UGA running back, Keith Marshall in check for the most part, which gave some people little optimism.  Historically, Clemson has always had a solid run defense, especially in the 1980s when the Perry brothers came through Tigertown, but in the past few seasons that intensity has diminished.  Some say that the reason why Clemson’s defense has not been as solid recently is because the offense scores too fast, putting the defense right back on the field.  However, I do not agree with that statement, because players at the collegiate level should be conditioned enough to handle quick turnarounds.

After the slow start against Georgia, Clemson followed it up with a great run defensive performance holding South Carolina State to just 86 yards on the ground.  There was some cause for concern against North Carolina State, though, as the Tiger defense repeatedly gave up big yards on the ground thanks to jet sweeps by the Wolfpack offense.  A lot of NC State’s rushing yards came courtesy of sweeps that Clemson could not figure out.  The defensive backs could not get off of their blocks, and the safeties took bad angles while trying to track down the receiver.  This past week, the Tigers held a bad Wake Forest team to just 60 yards rushing, in large part to defensive tackle Grady Jarrett.  Jarrett was the defensive MVP for this team last season, and he is picking up right where he left off.  Jarrett is third on the team in total tackles with 23 from his tackle position.  He blows up plays in the backfield and draws double teams from the opposing offensive line.

Linebackers Stephone Anthony and Spencer Shuey continued their solid play against Wake this weekend as well, although both of them did not get as many snaps as they normally do due to the scoreboard.  Anthony and Shuey ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in terms of total tackles.  They have done a good job of reading plays and stopping them at the point of attack.  When you hold a team to one or zero yards on first down, that forces them into passing situations where you can pin your ears back and apply pressure.  Because the run defense has been so good, it forces teams to pass more, and that is just fine for Clemson fans with the defensive end that they have.  Vic Beasley has had an impressive year, already with six sacks, which is just two away from the mark he set last season.  The pass rush has been great, but it all starts with the run defense.

Travis Patterson, Writer for ACC Follow on Twitter @tpat20

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