Clemson Tigers: What We Can Expect To See Defensively For The Tigers
After two home opening victories against the likes of North Texas and Presbyterian, the Clemson Tigers now heads into a tough three game stretch, starting with an away game against the Auburn Tigers. The true freshmen are now going to have a true test playing in such a harsh atmosphere so early in the season. Auburn will have momentum in this game, coming off of a victory last Thursday against Mississippi State.
Auburn is a ton to handle on offense, with the likes of the 6-6, 250 pound quarterback Cameron Newton at the helm, underrated, productive receivers, and a very respectable ground game with Mario Fannin and Onterio McCalebb as Gene Chizik goes into his second year. Now, with film on both, we can expect to see a number of things from the Tiger defense this week that they have not shown these first two weeks.
Containing The Dual Threat Cameron Newton
One of the main priorities of the Clemson defense will be to contain Cameron Newton. A big target at 6-6, and even harder to bring down at close to 250 pounds, Newton is primed for success at the Division I collegiate level. He is a dual threat quarterback, able to throw it and beat you with his legs running.
To contain this threat, Clemson must throw what coverages and matches it can to confuse Newton. Pressure is a must for this quarterback, as he simply can't be given too much time for his offense to open up in front of him. Auburn possess dependable receivers who make the catch anywhere. Newton has enough of the arm to challenge the secondary, so Clemson must be sure to respect their passing game.
Newton has the mobile element in his game, and has the ability to step up in the pocket and take off clear into the secondary, where he's a load to bring down. The first word that comes up is to put a spy on Newton. That one player is likely MLB Corico Hawkins, or even bandit end Andre Branch.It's also possible the spy duty might switch between key players (LB Hawkins, to DE/LB Branch, to S McDaniel, and so on)
There's also the possibility of slot defensive backs like Xavier Brewer teaming up with a linebacker or bandit spy like Hawkins or Branch to help keep containment in the pocket.
Newton's ability to roll out of the pocket and take off or throw must also be contained. Clemson's front seven's goal will be to contain Newton in the pocket and force him to become one dimensional. A varied array of blitzes are sure to come Newton's way often, from zone blitzes to slot corner blitzes.
Overall: Keep Newton in the Pocket, bring pressure often to affect his decision making.
The Little Things: Tackling and Discipline On Assignments
Despite their two victories, Clemson had a bit of early trouble against North Texas when they gave up 462 yards against their offense. You can bet that Auburn will do what they did against Mississippi State and use the short, quick passing game early and often, and establish a running game with their two running backs.
The keys here will be basic tackling and focus; Auburn receivers were able to make the yards after the catch, and Mississippi State suffered the repercussions of it early on. Auburn is sure to exploit and challenge Clemson's questionable linebacking corps.
Clemson is sure to give plenty of interesting looks to Newton, but in the cases of three wide receiver sets or more, it's a guarantee there will be two linebackers and five defensive backs.
Tackling was an issue in the first two games, especially in the North Texas game. Rather than simply try to tackle at times, the players would simply try to lay the big hit or knock them down. It is essential that there is proper tackling and discipline within the defense.
It's also important to note that Brandon May will be seeing his first full game action as a weak-side linebacker. His performance is sure to be fully evaluated coming off of his injury.
Overall: Clemson's front seven must know their gap assignments and know them well, and tackle properly, lest Newton and the offense have a fun day with the Clemson defense.