Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

October 30, 2018 at 9:46 pm.

Clemson defense flexing its muscle
Clemson’s offense has been clicking on all cylinders of late, as evidenced by the fact that the Tigers have outscored their last three opponents 163-20, but the Tigers’ defense also appears to be in postseason form.

The undefeated Tigers (8-0), who are ranked No. 2, are coming off a 59-10 victory at Florida State that tied the worst loss in Seminoles’ history and ranks as the program’s worst loss ever at home.

Clemson held the Seminoles to minus-21 yards on the ground and 247 total yards. Florida State coach Willie Taggart said that Clemson’s back-up defensive line is just as talented as its starting four, and he may be right.

The Clemson second-team defensive front consisting of Justin Foster, Xavier Thomas, Albert Huggins and Nyles Pinckney had more tackles, tackles for loss and sacks than the Tigers’ starting front line of Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence against Florida State.

That success stems from providing plenty of opportunities for the back-ups to receive significant playing time.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that deserve to play and we’ve got to play them and we’ve got to play them in critical situations and be committed to that,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s going to further enhance the depth that we already have, but also the competition — Xavier Thomas makes Clelin Ferrell better, it’s as simple as that.

“They can go play. With a team like this, that’s important for morale and they’re having fun with it. This is a very selfless team and that’s good quality of this team. I’ve had teams in the past that you could not sub as freely because it hurt the team because there was a big drop off. This team gives us a lot of options. We’re in a good place right now.”

No question there. The Tigers should be heavily in each of their remaining four games, beginning Saturday against Louisville, as they close in on fourth consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference title and fourth straight College Football Playoff berth.

Clemson’s defense is tied for the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation at 13.0 points per game and ranks among the top 10 in several other defensive categories, including total tackles for loss (second), total defense (third) and rushing defense (seventh).

“They’re getting in rhythm,” Swinney said. “I’ve been challenging these guys really hard the last few weeks and they’ve really responded.”