SPARTANBURG — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney had a singular play fresh in his mind when asked to describe this season’s improvement by defensive tackle Grady Jarrett.
Jarrett was cut-blocked to the ground in the Syracuse backfield before quickly getting to his feet and chasing after scrambling quarterback Terrel Hunt to get in on the tackle several yards downfield.
“That’s Grady Jarrett, the best way to describe him is with that play,” Swinney said. “And, he’s been that way every day since he got here. Grady’s just really kind of the heart and soul of our defense and sets the standard for everybody.”
Jarrett acknowledged he always has played with a high motor and never wants to show up on game film taking a play off.
“I think I’ve always played with great effort and I take pride in that. When I see myself not giving good enough effort on film, then I’ll feel really bad and that’s always on my mind — getting to the ball,” Jarrett said. “I don’t want to be known as a slacker or somebody who isn’t known for getting to the ball. Even if I’m getting tired, I tell myself to keep going, and that’s how I train throughout the offseason. That’s just my mindset, and it’s really helped me and it’s something I’m still developing.
“You always run to the ball because you never know what can happen, and effort is a great equalizer.”
The 6-foot-1, 290-pound junior has made plays like that all season, which accounts for him being third on the team with 32 tackles, behind linebackers Stephone Anthony and Spencer Shuey. That’s rarified air for a defensive tackle, and his total is 15 more tackles than the next Tiger at his position.
Jarrett’s on a mission to dispel the notion that he’s solely a run-stopper. He has 4½ tackles for loss and a sack to go along with a team-leading eight quarterback pressures, again an impressive number from a guy in the trenches.
“I feel like I’ve always been a pretty disruptive player, and then being my size and my position, people probably do think I’m just a run-stuffer, but I feel like I can do everything pretty good,” Jarrett said. “I still feel I’ve got to get better in every area because I’ve got a lot of quarterback pressures, but I would like to get some sacks, so I’ve got to get there a little faster. I feel I get good penetration, so I don’t really like that label of just being a run-stuffer.”
He didn’t mind being labeled the heart and soul of the defense by Swinney.
“It means a lot to me, and it’s something I take great pride in,” Jarrett said. “Just coming to work every day and trying to help my teammates come with a good mindset and ... keep focused on where we want to end up. As long as I’m doing my job and coming with a hard edge every day, I believe others will follow.”