What’s a new Clemson Football season without some bold predictions? Let’s look at some possibilities for the defense.
The Tigers will be a Top 10 defense in opponent yards allowed per game
Per teamrankings.com, Clemson was 19th in total yards allowed in 2022 with 330.5 per game (against FBS competition only).
That was not a bad mark at all, but considering the 2021 Tigers were a Top 10 defense in that regard (7th with 313.2 yards per game), 2022 was considered a bit disappointing.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise there was a small dropoff considering Wes Goodwin was in his first year as an on-the-field coach, much less as the defensive coordinator and play-caller. The Tigers also lost veteran linebackers James Skalski & Baylon Spector, and cornerbacks Andrew Booth and Mario Goodrich.
When you also add in the musical chairs at linebacker with Trenton Simpson and Barrett Carter trying to find where they fit best in the formation, it’s a little surprising the dropoff was only… (checks calculator)…17.3 yards per game.
Goodwin has a year under his belt. Carter knows where he fits, and Jeremiah Trotter is coming in lightning hot too. The defensive backs are a year older and a year more experienced. It isn’t far-fetched to expect this defense to return to the Top 10 in yards allowed in 2023.
The strength of the defense for Clemson Football moves from the line to the linebackers
Clemson will have three linebackers with five sacks and two interceptions
Going into 2022, it was expected that the defensive line would lead the charge for the defense. While there was excitement about the linebackers, they were inexperienced.
A year later, three linemen have moved on to the NFL, and it is the linebacker room featuring Carter and Trotter that is expected to lead the defense. Both had two interceptions in 2022. Trotter had 6.5 sacks and Carter had 5.5 sacks. It isn’t unreasonable to expect both players to match that production again.
Don’t overlook Wade Woodaz. Many people didn’t even expect him to avoid a redshirt when he arrived on campus last summer. By the end of the season, he was seeing regular snaps. Even with a relatively low snap count, he still had 1.5 sacks himself.
Add on that Woodaz will often find himself in coverage situations, the odds are good he will have chances to get those two picks.