Clemson University

Has Clemson’s secondary improved since Texas A&M? We’re about to find out

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney previews matchup with NC State

Swinney is impressed with Ryan Finley, Wolfpack
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Swinney is impressed with Ryan Finley, Wolfpack

“We have a million things to correct ... (We) got exposed.”

Those were the words Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables used to describe his secondary’s performance after Texas A&M passed for 430 yards against the Tigers in Week 2.

The Aggies ran up and down the field against Clemson’s vaunted defense in the second half as quarterback Kellen Mond threw for 333 yards in the final two quarters.

Clemson players and coaches vowed that they would get the busts and mental mistakes corrected after the narrow 28-26 win against the Aggies. When Ryan Finley and N.C. State come to town for a top 20 matchup this weekend, the country will find out just how much Clemson has improved.

“To be quite honest with you, we really haven’t seen anything like we’re going to see this weekend, just from a schematic standpoint,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday. “They really do a good job of attacking. And then the ball’s going down the field. This guy’s putting the ball up. There’s going to be a lot of competitive plays in this ball game, and so we’ve gotta win those plays.”

Clemson’s stats against the pass are impressive on the surface. The Tigers are No. 6 nationally, allowing only 153 yards per game.

But three of Clemson’s six games have come against option offenses, and the Tigers have faced only one top 60 passing offense in No. 24 Texas A&M.

N.C. State is No. 6 nationally in passing, averaging more than 335 yards per game.

“This quarterback, he can make very throw. Every single throw,” Swinney said. “And what’s most impressive about him ... he scrambles and he scrambles to throw. He has created a lot of big plays, and that’s what really worries you about this guy. He’s made a lot of great plays when the coverage was there.”

While Clemson’s coaching staff is impressed by the N.C. State offense, it also feels good about where the Tigers’ secondary is heading into this game.

Starting cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen and A.J. Terrell have performed well, while backup Mark Fields has been solid. Venables feels good about his starting safeties K’Von Wallace and Tanner Muse, as well as backups Nolan Turner and Denzel Johnson.

Freshman cornerbacks Kyler McMichael and Mario Goodrich are also improving and becoming more and more reliable.

“I like our guys. I like where we’re at mentally, where we’re at physically. They have a tremendous attitude and willingness to go to work and own where the weaknesses are and mistakes have been made,” Venables said. “That gives you an opportunity to grow and improve.”

Swinney added that the Clemson’s secondary is much more prepared to play well now than it was in Week 2. Swinney is also encouraged that the Clemson defense was dominant in its last game against Wake Forest

“They’ve grown a ton. The Texas A&M game we had some busts and then we had some fluky plays where we’re really, kind of hard to be in a better position. But tipped balls, a couple crazy situations,” Swinney said. “We definitely have grown a ton since that point ... Against Wake Forest, (we) probably played our best game. Just structurally and positioning, being where you’re supposed to be, those types of things. We’ve made good strides.”

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