Last season, Clemson cornerback Cordrea Tankersley was the beneficiary of teams throwing away from star Mackensie Alexander. Tankersley had a team-leading five interceptions.
This year, it’s Tankersley who teams are trying to avoid, and he’s had to adjust to seeing a limited number of passes thrown his way. Tankersley isn’t frustrated butsees it as a sign that teams are impressed by his abilities.
“That shows that a lot of these teams respect me and respect my game,” he said. “That’s how they want to game plan. … I do want some work though.”
Tankersley was tested a few times against Syracuse and made the Orange pay with his first interception of the season. In addition, he leads the Tigers with eight pass breakups and 40 tackles, including five for loss.
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While Tankersley has only one pick on the year, other defensive backs are stepping up. The most notable is safety Jadar Johnson, who’s fourth in the ACC with four interceptions.
“They’re not going to throw my way or they’re going to throw a lot of quick passes to where I can’t get to them, but it’s good to see other people like Jadar lead the team in interceptions,” Tankersley said. “He’s well deserving of it.”
Tankersley entered the season as the only proven playmaker for a secondary replacing three starters.
However, the Tigers haven’t missed a beat. After finishing No. 17 in the country in passing yards allowed last season, giving up 187.7 yards per game, Clemson is No. 11 this year, allowing 180.1.
Tankersley isn’t surprised to see the pass defense flourish.
“I’m ecstatic about the new guys. We’ve got young guys at the other corner position who are stepping up and making some great plays in Mark Fields, Marcus Edmond and Ryan Carter,” he said. “Jadar is playing at a high level as a senior should, and Van Smith, a sophomore, he looks like he’s been here four years. I love this secondary.”
Tankersley took it upon himself to become more of a leader when he decided to return to school for his senior year.
“I have become a lot more vocal,” he said. “Last year I wasn’t really talking, just leading by action, but I’ve been balancing it out and trying to do both.”
In the past month, Tankersley became a father and he’s hoping to finish the season strong before moving on to the NFL.
“It’s a blessing to have a new baby boy in this world,” he said. “I go out and grind every day for him, trying to change his life. To have him has solidified what I’m trying to do this year.”
Who: Pittsburgh at Clemson
When: 3:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium
Line: Clemson by 21