Clemson finished 14th in the nation in passing yards allowed last year at 182 yards per game, but the Tigers were also called for 95 penalties, which was tied for No. 112 out of 128 FBS teams.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was disappointed with how many penalties were called on Clemson’s defensive backs, so the Tigers have been working during fall camp to make sure less penalties are committed this season.
Clemson’s DBs have been wearing boxing gloves during one-on-one drills with receivers so that grabbing a jersey isn’t an option.
“We use them about every day,” starting cornerback Ryan Carter said. “Maybe here or there we take them off, but we’ve just been trying to limit those penalties that we’ve been having.”
The Tigers have always played physical against wide receivers and that will not change.
But what Clemson is working on is being physical at the line of scrimmage instead of when the ball is in the air.
“We’re definitely trying to make sure we limit those penalties. We had a lot of them last year,” Carter said. “It helps as far as holding guys. We had the penalties where we were holding people and stuff. I think the boxing gloves really help us work our feet and make sure we’re moving our feet at the line instead of just holding and grabbing. Sometimes we try to get a punch in there and throw them off a little bit.”
Clemson receiver Deon Cain, who goes against Carter and Clemson’s other cornerbacks every day in practice, said the boxing gloves seem to be helping.
“They’re being way heavier at the line of scrimmage just trying to put more hands on them and then once the receiver gets past a certain amount of yards, they’ll probably loosen up a little bit,” Cain said. “They’re really getting better with their feet and hands at the point of attack and when the ball’s in the air they’re being more passive. I can see them being consistent on that. Hopefully that carries on into the season.”
Carter said finding the ball and making a play on it is an area of emphasis for 2017. Too often last year Clemson defensive backs were tugging on a receiver’s jersey and not looking back for the ball after the quarterback let the pass go.
“I guess the main thing we’re trying to do is when the ball’s in the air getting our head around and not necessarily panicking when the ball’s in the air,” he said. “I feel like there was a couple of times last year we had great position but we’d start panicking a little bit. We’ve just got to keep working on our technique and getting our head around.”