A Closer Look: Tigers still seeking effective personnel combinations on defense

Playing time has fluctuated at all position areas during first half of season

Clemson linebacker Jonathan Willard and Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony tackle Florida State running back Chris Thompson in the second quarter.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Clemson linebacker Jonathan Willard and Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony tackle Florida State running back Chris Thompson in the second quarter.

While the Clemson offense settled into a core playing rotation early in the season, the Tigers' defense is playing an ongoing game of mix-and-match in an effort to find the right combinations.

As a result, many players' snap counts have fluctuated significantly from game to game.

Take backup defensive ends Vic Beasley and Tavaris Barnes for example.

Beasley got his feet wet against Auburn, and gave the pass rush a noticeable lift at the end of the game. He played a combined 64 snaps against Ball State and Furman, but then saw the field for just seven plays against Florida State. He was in the regular rotation, with 25 snaps, against Boston College, but was mostly back on the sidelines against Georgia Tech, with just seven snaps. He played 115 snaps during the first half of the season.

At the other backup defensive end position, Tavaris Barnes' bottom line is almost identical - 116 snaps - but his playing time has been more steady. Over the last three games, he played 15 snaps against FSU, 22 against BC and 19 against Georgia Tech.

On the interior defensive line, first-year freshman D.J. Reader has been a steady presence, with double-digit snaps in the Tigers' last five games. Fellow freshman Carlos Watkins, however, has yet to make the anticipated impact. After making his debut against Ball State and Furman, he didn't play against FSU or BC, and then got just two snaps against Georgia Tech.

At linebacker, Quandon Christian's snaps have gone up and down, as expected, depending on the style of offenses the Tigers have faced. Tig Willard and Stephone Anthony have been the mainstays, while Spencer Shuey has had 24 snaps or more in three of five games. Tony Steward's snaps from scrimmage have been minimal (six in each of the past two games), except for the Furman game. He continues to be a starter on several of the Tigers' special teams. Corico Wright, meanwhile, has had single-digit snaps in three of the Tigers' six games.

Playing time for Travis Blanks, Jonathan Meeks, Bashaud Breeland, Rashard Hall and Xavier Brewer has been relatively steady among players in the secondary. Darius Robinson, however, appeared only on special teams in the last game, while Garry Peters, who played just 15 snaps in the Tigers' first four games, has played 99 in the last two. Robert Smith has played just one snap from scrimmage in the past three games.

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Comments » 1

Lynx26 writes:

D Line is getting better- that's a start.

LBs would like to see STEWARD at the Sam on early downs(1st down, traditional 4-3)

DBs we have to stop looking in the backfield w/out getting depth! Easy 7pts. We're doing well back there not to have pressure up front though.

Improvement- I'd love to see us dictate(Pressure/movement/blitzing), rather than sit on our heels and wait til we're reached before we "finally" react.
1) know ur keys
2) Trigger
3) play fast and violent

** That's all I ask **

Shouldn't have a game under 10pts until USC!

Leggo Tigers!

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