CLEMSON — Slowly but surely, Brent Venables’ first Clemson defense is improving. Facing a Maryland team on its fifth quarterback of the season Saturday, the Tigers clamped down in a 45-10 win. The Terrapins’ 180 yards of total offense and 10 points were both season-bests for the defense, with Maryland’s yardage the lowest by a Clemson foe since Coastal Carolina had 179 on Oct. 31, 2009.
They’ll be more severely tested in the next two weeks against N.C. State and South Carolina, but Venables’ group is showing a clear trend of improvement. Venables discussed Corey Crawford’s fumble return score, improvement and more with reporters afterward:
On the fumble return TD: “I think it was a table-setter, obviously. Let’s face it, they have some limitations, they’re going through some issues, but all that aside, just our positioning, our physicality, the aggression we played with against a very physical, focused team they brought out there. We talked all week about really focusing in on us more than anything else. That was a sign of maturation, leadership, and guys being hungry. Not being satisfied.”
On improvement over the last month: “Sometimes yards and points are indicative of that, sometimes they’re not. I feel like you might have seen, we are getting a little bit better, week in and week out. Maryland had limitations, so we stressed certain areas. We will be (more tested) in the next couple weeks. I reward the guys for a good solid effort and getting to play another week.”
On the improved defensive line pressure: “Marion (Hobby) does a great job with those guys. They’re becoming more and more productive and disruptive. They’re getting good pad level and they understand their responsibilities. They’re making plays and it’s showing up in the stats, and I think that’s indicative of improvement. They’re working hard, they’re out there early at every practice working on the little things. They understand football.”
On Spencer Shuey’s play: “He’s an instinctive guy. A good tackler. He understand what we’re trying to do. He really has an understanding of offenses and formations and just does a great job of managing our defense from the middle linebacker spot. That’s the way it should be if you’re any good. I’m happy for him and proud of him.”