CLEMSON — Clemson’s defense came up big when it needed to Saturday night: the Tigers held Auburn to three second-half field goals and came from behind in the fourth quarter for a 26-19 win.
Still, there was a sense Monday that Brent Venables’ first game as defensive coordinator left plenty of room for improvement.
Auburn burned Clemson’s secondary for a 54-yard play-action touchdown from Kiehl Frazier to Emory Blake, and senior safety Xavier Brewer said poor alignment was to blame.
“Guys were not where they were supposed to be at, and we ended up having a safety in man coverage,” he said. “We left our corner ( Darius Robinson) out to dry. It was a lack of focus.”
Brewer said the defense was “not together” at times, saying assignment and alignment issues were to blame.
“The big thing was alignment,” he said. “Eyes were really bad in the game. I feel like that’s something we can definitely fix going into Ball State. They’re going to be fast, but we have plenty of time to line up so that’s going to be no excuse.”
Practice, Brewer said, carried over into the game.
“We need to prepare with more of a sense of urgency than we did last week,” he said. “ I didn’t like our sense of urgency in Wednesday and Thursday’s practice going into the game. We’re going to have to get to that this week.”
Senior “Will” linebacker Tig Willard, who took 56 of 63 defensive snaps, wasn’t happy with his own performance, but was happy with how his unit improved as the game wore on.
“We started off a bit rough but after making adjustments, it was ‘Let’s go out and get it,’” he said. “I felt like everyone was willing to make adjustments, everyone was ready to play hard. Everyone came together as one unit. ‘OK, what’s next, what do we have to do in order to stop them?’ I felt like when it came down to tough, short-yardage goal-line situations, everyone stepped up. When we needed that third-and-one, everyone was ready to go. It was exciting.”
Quick adjustment: Senior defensive end Malliciah Goodman said Venables was a bit out of sorts before his first game as a Clemson coach Saturday night, but that changed quickly.
“At first he was a little lonely before the game, before the ball was snapped,” Goodman said. “It’s the first time he’s been out of Oklahoma stuff, but once the ball was snapped and we started firing around, he bonded quick. Everyone started listening to him, listening to the coaching, and we made great adjustments and came out with the win.”
Depth chart shuffles: Clemson released an updated depth chart for Saturday’s home opener vs. Ball State with a few changes. Sophomores Grady Jarrett and DeShawn Williams are listed as the starters at the defensive tackle slots; co-starters had previously been listed at both positions. Freshman D.J. Reader is listed as Jarrett’s backup, while sophomore Josh Watson is Williams’ backup. Willard is listed as the starter at “Will” linebacker over fellow senior Corico Wright, although junior Quandon Christian and freshman Travis Blanks continue to share starter designation at “Sam” linebacker. Seniors Brewer and Jonathan Meeks are the starters at safety over senior Rashard Hall and sophomore Robert Smith. And Corey Crawford is listed as the starter at bandit end over fellow sophomore Vic Beasley.