There was turnover at some positions for Clemson Football coming into 2023, but one of the more experienced groups coming back was the defensive backfield.
Cynics might scoff at that. The cornerbacks and safeties had their share of frustrations against Sam Hartman and the Demon Deacons. When it seemed like they had righted the ship, they had a similar collapse against Tennessee in the Orange Bowl.
Sometimes a year can make a big difference in college football. According to teamrankings.com, the Tigers have allowed 192 yards per game against FBS competition this season. That’s an improvement over the 230 per game they allowed last season.
Neither the Duke nor Florida Atlantic offenses have the downfield ability of FSU, so this will be a different kind of test.
The Clemson Football defensive backfield has been good, but they will need to be even better against Florida State
Andrew Mukuba is day-to-day right now, which means freshman Khalil Barnes will likely start at nickel. Barnes was very good against FAU, but every freshman is going to have those moments.
On one play against the Owls, a wide receiver beat Barnes down the middle of the field by a few steps. Quarterback Casey Thompson uncorked a big throw that overshot his intended target by a couple of feet.
Had the throw been a tad shorter, Barnes would have been toast.
Thompson was no Jordan Travis, who is getting early Heisman hype. If Keon Coleman or Johnny Wilson get loose, Travis isn’t likely to miss them.
It’s going to be hard to avoid any mistakes in coverage against this Seminole offense, so the front seven/six will have to be on task as well. Pressure on the quarterback by the line will be key, but even more important will be Jeremiah Trotter and Barrett Carter containing the elusive Travis. The more he is allowed to create with his legs or with his arm when he gets out of the pocket, the tougher it will be to get the FSU offense off the field.
There will be little room for error for the Clemson defense this Saturday.