On the Beat: Kevin Steele’s words echo as No. 11 Clemson prepares for Furman
CLEMSON – In getting No. 11 Clemson (2-0) to focus for its Saturday game against winless, FCS-level foe Furman (0-2), coach Dabo Swinney sounded a lot like a former coach with the program: Kevin Steele.
“Great teams play to a standard not an opponent,” said Swinney, echoing the words of Steele, “a faceless, nameless opponent.”
Of course the words might have originated with Nick Saban, who Steele coached under, Saban whose organizational mantra “the process” has influenced coaches and proliferated throughout the game.
Of course Swinney can do more than talk this week to focus players, he can show them video from the Furman-Florida game last year when the Paladins had out-gained Florida until the Gators’ final drive of the game. Furman produced 446 yards of total offense against Florida and the Gators had to come from behind in a 54-32 victory.
Florida did not play to a standard that day and neither did Virginia Tech in 2010 when it won 11 games but lost to FCS opponent, James Madison. “I don’t worry about (focus) with this team,” Swinney said.
What the coaches are concerned with is the performance of the run defense.
Run-first Furman was able to rush for 224 yards at Florida last season. Furman is 50th in the FCS average 150 rushing yards per game.
Clemson is 101st in the nation in rush defense (216 yards per game) and 115th in rush yards allowed per attempt (5.6).
He said it: Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables: “We can’t continue to allow teams to run the ball at five and six yards a clip. You’re behind the chains and can’t be aggressive. The best defenses around control the line of scrimmage with four (linemen). You can play physical with front seven, you can play coverage, you can pressure, and you have all kinds of flexibility.”
Blanks is trending up: Expect to see more of freshman Travis Blanks at Clemson’s hybrid position.
Said Venables, who is not prone to hyperbole: “God, he’s good.”
Blanks played 23 snaps in the opener against Auburn and 42 against Ball State. Part of Blanks’ playing time at the hybrid position is tied to matchups, as Blanks is built more line a cornerback than a linebacker, but Venables likes his tenacity and physical nature. Pound for pound, he’s one of the best tacklers on the team.
Blanks’ increased playing time could come at the expense of Quandon Christian whose snaps dropped from 29 in the first game to 14 against Ball State.
Extra points: Swinney said left guard David Beasley (knee), right tackle Gifford Timothy (knee) and linebacker Tig Willard (shoulder) will be available for the Furman game … Sophomore defensive tackle DeShawn Williams leads the team with three tackles for loss and also has a sack.