Jadar Johnson believes Clemson’s defense is not far from turning the corner.
The Orangeburg-Wilkinson defensive back saw progress from the Tigers this season and thinks it will continue under defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
“I think the defense is pretty good,” Johnson said. “They’re not perfect. They make mistakes here and there, but for the most part, they are pretty good. I think (Venables) is going to turn the whole program around. The things he’s putting in on defense are really helping us, and we can see the changes already.”
Johnson (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) intercepted eight passes and forced three fumbles this season. His normal position is cornerback, but he could be moved to safety next year.
Johnson verbally committed to the Tigers in March. He said Clemson fit what he was looking for in a school.
“I just like the environment up there,” he said. “I like all the coaches. They seem like they care about you a lot. It’s just more than football. They want to see you successful in life.”
Johnson added that Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was a major reason he committed to the Tigers.
“I love a coach like him,” Johnson said. “It will help you where you need to be. If a coach is lying to you and telling you this and that, it’s not really going to help you better yourself.”
Clemson won the ACC championship last year and reached the Orange Bowl. The Tigers were one game away from going back to the league title game but fell short at Florida State. The likelihood that they could make a quick return to an ACC title or beyond excites Johnson.
“That’s real exciting,” he said. “It gives you more motivation to play hard. When you are not playing for anything, you’re not playing as hard as you can.”
Johnson will play for the opportunity to put South Carolina back in the win column against North Carolina in the 76th Annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas at 1 p.m. Saturday. He said avenging last year’s 26-19 loss would be a nice way to end his high school career.
“I’m real excited because that’s the best players from North Carolina, so it will help me go up against better competition to help me better myself.”
IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE: Apparently pajama bottoms have taken the place of football pants. South Carolina worked out for two hours on Thursday morning in shoulder pads, but wore either sweats or pajama pants. The most interesting of the day belonged to Swansea linebacker Byron Johnson, who was sporting Superman pants.
SOLID SPECIAL TEAMS: South Carolina has spent a lot of time working on special teams this week. Sandlappers coach Ray Stackley said he’s pleased with the progress his team has made.
“We’ve had a lot of work on that because some of these guys have never played on special teams,” he said. “We started early trying to get that in.”
He added kicker Ben Hinson (Irmo) has been dependable.
“Ben Hinson is a quality kid, a smart kid,” Stackley said. “He’s a very good kicker and is punting very well.”
THANKS FOR THE HELP: A few Sandlappers had to borrow helmets from Spartanburg High School due to issues with their own headgear. Dutch Fork defensive lineman Jamar Winston spent most of the week in Vikings’ gear before getting his own helmet back Thursday.
Stackley said the issue had to do with certification stickers wearing off over the course of the season.
“It was some phase of where the certification process wasn’t exactly right,” he said. “They wanted to make sure for liability purposes and make sure they were legally approved helmets.”