CLEMSON -- The first question directed at Clemson's Kevin Steele following Saturday's win regarded the poor tackling effort against Troy. Whether it was the question, or the arm tackles shed by the Sun Belt foe, the veteran defensive coordinator was bothered.
"It was pretty obvious (the tackling) wasn't very good," Steele said. "We didn't tackle very sharp but we'll get that corrected."
Clemson hopes the matter is fixable because the schedule now becomes considerably more difficult. Clemson faces five straight quality rushing offenses, beginning Saturday at 3:30 p.m. with Wofford, an option team ranked among the top rushing offenses in the FCS.
The task of tackling and stopping the run does not become any easier the following week as Clemson hosts No. 23 Auburn, which ranked third in the nation in rushing yards last season (284 yards per game). Sure, Heisman winner Cam Newton is gone but talented running backs like Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb remain. No. 6 Florida State is next and ranked 28th in rushing last year.
The Tigers begin October at Virginia Tech, the No. 17 rushing team in FBS last year, and then face the preseason ACC player of the year in Boston College's Montel Harris.
The five-week stretch will test a run defense that is 14 pounds per lighter across the defensive front than a year ago and didn't consistently dominate the line of scrimmage against Troy, producing just two tackles for loss.
Troy's top three running backs rushed 28 times for 150 yards Saturday. But, Steele noted, if a 57-yard run against the second-team defense was subtracted, the Tigers allowed three yards per rush, not the 4.6 yards per rush posted in the boxscore. "I thought our front did an effective job. When they tried to run the ball, they really couldn't."
Steele thought some of the troubles could be attributed to the amount of youth on the field. Clemson played a program-record 12 true freshmen, with nearly half of the rookies playing in the defensive front seven. "There was some hesitation from younger guys," he said. "It wasn't that they were messing up, it was that they weren't playing as fast. They settled down."
Coach Dabo Swinney said safety Rashard Hall (knee) was the only player to come out of the game with an injury question. Swinney said Hall will be evaluated today but is hopeful the injury is not serious.
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