On the Beat: Kevin Steeles 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, whom Steele coached under.
But 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 outgained 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.
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, averaging 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).
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.
The Swinney Era could be an extended one at Clemson, helped by a number of buyout clauses and escalators in his new contract that are geared toward promoting stability at the top of the program.
Swinney signed a new six-year contract worth $1.965 million per year this offseason, as earlier reported. Clemson released a copy the contract Thursday.
If Swinney leads Clemson to another ACC title his pay will increase to the average of the top three compensated coaches in the conference.
If Swinney leads Clemson to a division title, his compensation will increase to the average of the top five head coaches in the ACC.
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.