Clemson’s top-ranked defense completely shut down Oklahoma in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl, but Sooners star running back Samaje Perine believes the 2015 Tigers defense doesn’t match up.
“They (were) bigger and faster,” Perine said of the 2014 Tigers. “This year they have pretty good size, but last year’s Clemson defense, they were a lot faster and a lot bigger.”
Perine, who has rushed for 1,291 yards and 15 touchdowns through 12 games, said Clemson’s defense has holes that the Sooners plan on exploiting.
“They’re a good defense, but they have areas where we can expose,” he said. “We’re going to make sure we expose it.”
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Despite Oklahoma losing 40-6 to Clemson a season ago, the sophomore said the Sooners are still very confident they can get the job done on Thursday.
“Our confidence comes from within our locker room. We know that we’re going to make plays, and we know that there’s no defense in the country that can shut us down. That’s where our confidence comes from,” Perine said. “They’re just another team that has to get beat in order for us to go up and we intend on doing everything we can to make that happen.”
Clemson’s win over Notre Dame in early October wasn’t pretty, but it did give the Tigers a belief that they could be on the verge of something special.
Clemson nearly blew a 21-3 fourth-quarter lead, but held on by holding the Fighting Irish out of the end zone on a crucial two-point conversion late in the game. The Tigers went on to earn a 24-22 win and have not looked back.
“That really defined where our team was at and how good we really were after that game,” defensive end Shaq Lawson said. “The games before that I couldn’t really tell where we were at because we hadn’t played nobody good like that, but after that Notre Dame game, I knew our team was where we needed to be.”
THE PATH TO CLEMSON
Lawson was all set to go out of state and play at Tennessee, but when his dad died during his junior year of high school, the Central native opted to stay home and be with his family.
“I just wanted to be closer with my brothers and little sister, so that pretty much changed my decision,” he said. “I was about to go (to Tennessee), but I’m glad I stayed at home and everything.”
Let play do the talking
Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander is widely considered to be one of the top cornerbacks in the country, and while fellow starter Cordrea Tankersley tries to model his game after Alexander, he leaves the talking to the Florida native.
“He has no filter,” Tankersley said. “He backs it up pretty well. I’m the opposite. I just want to go out there and just play ball. But he’s done so much for this program, you have to respect him. So him being a great player, I just want to join him. I’m not going to do the trash talking, though.”
There has not been a big drop off statistically from Clemson’s 2014 defense to this year’s unit, despite the Tigers losing several key members to the NFL.
Tankersley said the reason the Tigers have continued to have success is because defensive coordinator Brent Venables makes sure his backup players are developed throughout the year.
“He stressed that a lot, so when we go to second string, he installs it as if he’s coaching the first team. There’s no drop off,” Tankersley said. “He spends the second team corner just like the first team corner. There’s no excuses.”