Safeties Travis Blanks, Robert Smith among defensive spring standouts

Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony defends against a pass during the Orange-White Spring Football Game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

Photo by Sefton Ipock

Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony defends against a pass during the Orange-White Spring Football Game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

At times, the Clemson offense enforced its will much like it has often since Chad Morris came to town, but with a split-squad, defensive lapses were to be expected.

“Our guys played with good effort,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “There were some big plays in the first half and we got away on defense injury-free so mission-accomplished there.”

The year-to-year improvement of his defense has been one of the main Tiger spring topics, and despite a 50-point spring game first half, Venables didn’t see anything to shake his confidence.

“I think we made progress. I think we’ve been talked about a lot,” said Venables. “I feel very strongly about our front-seven. As of now, (Travis) Blanks and (Robert) Smith have really solidified themselves where they’re at (safety).

“It’s still a work in progress outside at the corners. There’s enough guys out there and some guys coming in that we’ll have a couple of them when we get to fall camp.”

Smith, a junior, led the Orange squad with seven tackles and two for loss, while Blanks, a sophomore, compiled six tackles with an interception for the White.

When asked about the spring’s standout players – those two were the first on Venables’ list.

Defense still ahead of the game

None

“Our maturation at safety with Robert and Travis,” he started, “really, Travis had practiced there, but didn’t have a lot of game experience. He and Robert both seldom make the same mistake twice.

“That’s not something you see with a lot of guys – so their progress was pretty consistent.”

At linebacker, two more caught Venables’ eye.

“Shuey learning how to play weakside (linebacker) and play at a very high level was good,” he said. “Stephone Anthony’s growth and maturation in the middle was very prevalent.”

On the d-line, an end trio made the progression he was hoping for: “ Vic Beasley and Corey Crawford have been consistently showing up and bringing it every day and making improvement fundamentally and leadership-wise. Tavaris Barnes has made a step in the right direction in his development.”

Beasley and Barnes each doubled up on sacks, while Crawford posted four tackles in the spring game.

Walk-on defensive backs Dante Stewart and Taylor Watson also proved they could play in this practice session.

“They invested in the spring and the opportunities they had,” Venables said. “They are a couple non-scholarship guys that really in our minds outperformed some other guys on a consistent basis.”

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