CLEMSON — The Clemson Tiger defense will have its hands full this week with the triple-option attack of The Citadel Bulldogs.
For the first time since the 2013 season, the Tigers will welcome the Bulldogs and their powerful triple-option attack to Death Valley for a showdown Saturday (12:20 p.m., ACC Network).
The good news for the Tigers is they have already experienced the triple-option attack this season, against cross-division rival Georgia Tech, who the Tigers held to 133 rushing yards. The bad news for the Tigers is that The Citadel is a different animal than Georgia Tech.
"It definitely helps as opposed to starting from scratch,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “There's some similarities, but there's a lot of differences — schemewise, formationally, motion, a lot of things that they do that are different. There are some things that certainly help you just having done it three or four weeks ago. There will be some carryover."
Quarterback Dominique Allen leads the Bulldogs in rushing (571), adding eight touchdowns on the ground and three touchdowns passing. The Bulldogs also have four players with at least 479 yards rushing, with Grant Drakeford ranking second on the team in rushing yardage with 556 yards and an impressive 9.9 yards per carry average.
If the Tigers are not careful on Saturday, Venables knows first-hand that even the best defenses can be made to look foolish.
"There's not a lot of margin for error. It requires tremendous discipline by 11 guys every snap, to be physically tough but to play quick, to stay on your feet, to get your eye discipline,” Venables said. “All the things that we talk about all the time in regards to the triple-option. You know that on any given snap one guy stepping wrong — we had that 60-something yarder (against Georgia Tech) right up the A-gap that happened.
“It doesn't take much, 'Oh, my bad.' Yeah, my bad. He's hitting his head on the goalpost. Then it's like they control the game. You feel like you're on your heels when you're not doing the little things right.”
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said, “Brent and the boys, they hate these weeks” when they are asked to face the triple-option. For Venables, it is not so much that he hates the preparation as much as he hates the stress that the triple-option puts on himself and his players.
"It's a physical, mental stress. Guys don't like those guys mowing them down in the kneecaps or from behind — that's not called very often, the proverbial chop-block,” Venables said. “Then all the play-action passes. You're in high-stress coverage a lot and one small, minor error, it doesn't matter who you're lining up against, you'll look foolish if you're not doing those little things right.”
With The Citadel likely being the last team that the Tigers will face this season that features the triple-option, there are some things that can carry over and help them as they prepare for instate rival South Carolina next weekend and the ACC Championship two weeks from Saturday.
But Venables would prefer to play teams with similar schemes to what the Tigers will be facing in the coming weeks.
"Some things it helps you, fundamentally playing cut-blocks, fundamentally playing fast with your hands and your feet and putting your eyes in the right spots — those things help carry over against everybody you play,” Venables said. “But schematically not quite as much as you would like, and as you're finishing the season and you go to your next couple of opponents. For the most part, you won't see the same types of schemes — you'll be on different planets. You'd rather see some schemes that will help you."
Juniors to be
honored Senior Day
Clemson junior defensive lineman Christian Wilkins and junior offensive lineman Taylor Hearn will both be recognized as seniors pregame Saturday. While both Hearn and Wilkins have yet to decide whether or not they will return for their senior seasons, both are slated to graduate in a couple of weeks and chose to be honored with the other seniors.