CLEMSON — Dabo Swinney knows that no one is going to mistake Clemson's defense for 'the '85 Bears.'
Nonetheless, he's convinced that progress is being made on a variety of fronts, and he expects that improvement to show up on the field as the Tigers move through the second half of their season.
"I think we're improving - the last two weeks, I think I've seen some solid improvement, in particular up front," Swinney told the ACC coaches' teleconference on Wednesday. "We're really pleased with what I see taking place. We've got some guys really growing up right before our eyes.
"There's a lot of things maybe that the naked eye doesn't see, but that we certainly do from a coaching standpoint. I really like the development."
At this point, Swinney said the improvement is most evident among the Tigers' front four.
"I think Corey Crawford is really coming on, Tavaris Barnes is starting to show some signs that we're excited about from that young group," he said. "And then all those D tackles, Grady (Jarrett), DeShawn Williams, Josh Watson, DJ Reader, Carlos Watkins, Rod Byers, all those guys - we just feel like we've got a solid group there that's very much improved from when we started the season.
"We've still got a ways, but they're learning every day, and they're applying that learning, and that's what's exciting about what I'm seeing."
He anticipates better play at linebacker and in the secondary, as well.
"I think that we've got some young linebackers that are coming on for us and developing," Swinney said. "We're excited about Travis Blanks. Gary Peters is a guy that's kind of stepped up and seized the moment with his opportunity.
"So we're improving. We're not the '85 Bears right now or anything like that, but we like the guys we have, and if they will make the same incremental improvements that we've made the first half of the season, and go apply those in the second half, then I think we have a chance to be a pretty good group with the ability to be a great group in the future."
Swinney would like to see the improvement manifest itself in fewer big plays allowed by the defense.
"We've got to continue to improve in the big play category," he said. "I thought we did a much better job (against Georgia Tech). We didn't have a couple of the busts that we had been having.
"They made some big plays, but it really wasn't as much from busts as just not quite executing properly or technique or just getting beat by a guy. But there wasn't guys just not where they were supposed to be or anything like that, not knowing what they were doing.
"So just the knowledge, I think, has improved of what we're doing and why, and that's definitely the area that I think we can be most improved in the second half."