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The Clemson Insider

Reed: Clemson’s defense has ‘unfinished business’

By Davis Potter,


Mike Reed is convinced the way last season went left a bad taste in the collective mouth of Clemson’s defense.

“It left one in mine,” Reed said.

But don’t take his word for it. The Tigers’ longest-tenured assistant, who serves as assistant head coach and cornerbacks coach, pointed to some of Clemson’s top performers on that side of the ball as further proof – ones that could’ve bolted for the NFL after last season.

“You see some of the guys that came back,” Reed said. “Tyler Davis. Ruke Orhorhoro. It left a bad taste.

“If we would’ve won the national championship, their (butts) probably would’ve left. But there’s some unfinished business.”

Clemson’s defensive performance under first-year coordinator Wes Goodwin didn’t experience a precipitous dropoff. The Tigers finished in the top 30 nationally in points and yards allowed, and their 12th-ranked rush defense allowed just 102 yards per game on the ground.

But the defense grew to be a suffocating unit under Brent Venables, whose decade-long run as one of college football’s top defensive coordinators at Clemson ended last year when he took the head job at Oklahoma. Comparatively speaking, it wasn’t good enough.

“The bar and the standard here is high,” Reed said. “The kids understand that when they come here, they’re coming here with a purpose. They want to championships. When you don’t get to what you really want, you’ve got to come back and you’ve got to fix it.”

The defense’s biggest issue last season was consistency, Reed said, particularly against the pass. Playing with three new starters in the secondary, Clemson struggled for much of the season keeping the ball in front. The Tigers, who finished in the bottom third of the ACC in pass defense, allowed 48 completions of at least 20 yards.

With every starter returning in the defensive backfield, Reed is expecting maturity to help with that going into next season. But he noted fundamental play on the back end also has to be shored up.

“Now guys are realizing when coaches were stressing the details and the small things, they understand, woah, that’s the difference between a touchdown and a pass breakup,” Reed said. “Or a missed block could mean a big play. Guys realize it. They see it, they’re more mature, and it’s time for them to turn the page and get better.”

Reed said he’s seen a hungry defense so far during spring practices.

“They want to win, and they love to compete,” he said. “Guys are really going after it.”

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