Lower pressure? Dabo Swinney not expecting Blue Devils to rein in defense

'People are going to do what they do - you're not going to change your identity in one week'

Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins scores on a 61-yard touchdown play during the second quarter at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins scores on a 61-yard touchdown play during the second quarter at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Based on what happened last week in both Tallahassee and Winston-Salem, Duke defensive coordinator Jim Knowles might be tempted to turned the Blue Devils' pressure defense down a notch.

Dabo Swinney doesn't expect that to happen, though, when Duke's defense lines up against Clemson's playmaking offense Saturday night.

"People are going to do what they do - you're not going to change your identity in one week," Swinney said on Tuesday. "It's just like when we went up to Wake Forest last week. They were bringing pressure and giving us some match-ups.

"They were playing off, reading routes and jumping things. We had opportunities to make played. We liked those match-ups."

Clemson ended up burning the Deacons' defense repeatedly, while Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins piled up school-record numbers.

Florida State did much the same thing to Duke that Clemson did to Wake Forest.

"They (Duke) lined up, got after them, and Florida State made plays," Swinney said.

After several years of solid recruiting on the defensive side of the ball, Duke's defense has held up its half of the equation this year under Knowles, a former head coach at Cornell who moved into the coordinator's spot when Marion Hobby left Duke for Clemson in 2011.

The Blue Devils have one of the ACC's top tacklers in Walt Canty, and one of the league's best defensive backs Ross Cockrell. He leads the ACC in passes defended with 15, including league highs in interceptions (4) and PBUs (11).

As a team, Duke has posted middle-of-the-pack numbers in most defense categories: seventh in rushing defense (165.1), total defense (414.7) and third-down conversion defense (37.7 percent), sixth in passing efficiency defense, and fifth in sacks.

The Blue Devils' defensive gambles perhaps show up in a ninth-place standing in scoring defense (30.0) and a next-to-last ranking in red zone defense.

Duke's top mark is in takeaways, as the Blue Devils rank second in the ACC to North Carolina with 19.

Swinney noted that playmaking opportunities allowed by an aggressive defense mean little unless the offense makes plays.

"When you have those chances, you've got to make those plays," he said. "But I don't expect them to try and reinvent the wheel."

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