Yesterday, we covered Clemson's spread offense along with Dabo Swinney and company. Now we'll delve into the Tiger defense and special teams.
Last season, Clemson showed signs of being a top ACC defense. However, many of those signs where overshadowed when the bend-don't-break defense broke down and the floodgates were opened against Florida State and South Carolina. Teams had a run tendency against the Tigers in standard down situations last season (65%), as defensive coordinator Brent Venables packed the line of scrimmage and set his secondary in nickle the majority of the time. They gave the opposition short and underneath throws leading to short gains and higher than average mistakes. With the roster how it is I expect much of the same from the Clemson defense this season.
Clemson returns with one of the top defensive lines in not only the ACC but the country. The obviously reason for this is defensive end Vic Beasley, who put on a clinic when it came to pure pass rushing. Beasley over pursed and ignored the run on occasion last season but the rest of the front is designed to mitigate the damages on those few instances. Corey Crawford and Shaq Lawson will be the two prominent interior guys, and will certainly be tested off the bat against a high powered Georgia run game.
A large reason for Clemson's defensive success was due to an excellent linebacking corp and experience at corner. However, this season may be a bit different as the Tigers lose Darius Robinson, Bashaud Breeland, Spencer Shuey and Quandon Christian. I expect senior Tony Steward to me a more than formidable replacement for Shuey and I don't expect a huge drop off at corner with Garry Peters and Cordrea Tankersley. The Tigers are returning both of their top safeties from last season in Robert Smith and Jayson Kearse, so I don't expect that unit to miss a beat. A regression from last year is certainly possible, and more likely at corner, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Well... the Catman is gone which sucks but Clemson's special teams should still be very consistent. They return punter/kicker Bradley Pinion, who I don't think was even used against Wake. Ammon Lakip will be one of the bigger question marks in this unit, as he will take the field goal kicking duties from Chandler Catanzar. The Tigers will also look to replace Sammy Watkins as a returner but have some experience in this area with Germone Hopper and Adam Humphries.
The good news is I don't think this game will be as lopsided as it was at Clemson. The bad news is I think Wake still gets routed. As much as I want to see Wake pull one out, I just don't think they have the firepower to throw up points against this defense. Defensively, this should be exciting from a Deacon standpoint as Clemson doesn't have cheat code Sammy Watkins, and I think Wake's secondary is good enough to slow down this wealth of receivers. However, in the end it comes down to a lack of offensive ability for Wake and stellar Clemson defense. Wake Forest 9 - Clemson 28