Lesson learned: Clemson ready to move on
By JAMES CARR
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The Clemson Tigers are tired of talking about the Orange Bowl.
More importantly, they're tired of hearing about the record-setting 70-33 loss to West Virginia back in January.
"Our thing is, try not to focus on the media, try not to focus on what everyone is saying and people in general, because it's up to us to go out there and play the game and go out and execute,'' said senior defensive end Malliciah Goodman.
Coach Dabo Swinney was much more direct Monday at the ACC Kickoff.
"That game's over,'' Swinney said. "We didn't play good. We didn't play good on offense, defense or special teams and that's about it. I'm not here to talk about the Orange Bowl. I'm here to talk about 2012 and this season.''
Fair enough. The Tigers have heard all they need to hear. They have also learned what they need to learn.
"The bottom line is when you win and when you lose you have opportunities to learn and grow, and that's what the offseason's about and that's what we've done,'' Swinney said.
It started defensively when Swinney hired Brent Venables as his defensive coordinator. Venables brought energy and enthusiasm to the Tigers while they also simplified the defense.
The energy on defense is intended to match Clemson's rapid pace on offense. The Tigers – fueled by Heisman candidates Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Andre Ellington – snapped the ball more than any other team in the ACC last season. In turn, that caused teams to attack Clemson's defense in the same way to play catch-up.
"I think we snapped the ball the second most out of any team in the country, and when you do that you pretty much have to play five quarters of football instead of four,'' Swinney said. "I think mentally now they know a little bit more what to expect from a tempo standpoint. Our defense saw more teams last year that really tempo'd us, spread us out, attacked us in some different ways and that's an area we have to improve on on that side.''
On the field, Clemson hope Goodman will turn into a leader. During the offseason he's pushing himself to improve his endurance and stamina, despite setting a school-record for snaps in a season last year with 767. He has also been challenged by Swinney and the coaching staff. It's the same challenge they issued to DaQuan Bowers and Andre Branch in seasons past.
"He's got to take it to another level,'' Swinney said. "He's been a good player, he's been a productive player but he hasn't been a great player yet and neither had Branch and neither had DaQuan quite frankly, so that's the challenge to Malliciah.''
Goodman has accepted the challenge. He described the vibe of his workouts of constantly going hard and doing everything at full speed because when he's on the field – and he's on the field a lot – he wants to be able to fire on all cylinders on every play.
"This is the time to push your body during the offseason, because it's going to get tested during the season, so just train your body because anything can happen,'' Goodman said.
It remains to be seen whether Goodman will rise to that challenge, but if his offseason workouts have anything to do with it Goodman could join Branch and Bowers in tales of Clemson lore.
And after West Virginia dropped 70 on the Tigers in the Orange Bowl, they're well aware that anything can happen.
This time they'll be ready for it.