If there was one area of glaring weakness for the Clemson Tiger defensive unit in 2022, it would have been the secondary–who gave up big play after big play, dropped picks and didn’t perform to the level that cornerbacks coach Mike Reed expects.
However, the one thing that Reed never doubted was the desire to be great–it was the execution that was lacking.
“Now guys have realized when coaches were stressing the small things, they understand OK that’s the difference between a touchdown and a pass breakup,” Reed said. “Or a missed block could mean a big play. They see it and are more mature. Now it’s time for them to turn the page and get better.”
So how does one go about turning those missed opportunities into turnovers? You throw the ball more.
“You have to throw the ball more in practice. If you’re not catching the ball in a game, well then you have to throw more in practice,” Reed said. “And get them to a point where they are relaxed and not tense when the ball comes. It’s not like they mean to miss it… they get right there and the ball is right there and they miss it. One of the ways you improve that is hand and eye coordinator drills, strengthening the hands, and catching more football.”
If there was a bright side to the 2022 season for the cornerbacks, it would have to be the emergence of Nate Wiggins.
Wiggins has been called by teammates and coaches as one of Clemson’s most naturally gifted corners in recent memory, made a sophomore leap down the stretch of his second season in 2022. His 12 pass breakups were one shy of the Clemson sophomore record of 13 shared by James Lott (1987) and Justin Miller (2003) and were the most by a Clemson defender of any classification in a season since Coty Sensabaugh’s 13 in 2011. His highlight 98-yard interception return in the ACC Championship Game was the longest play in the game’s history and the second-longest interception in Clemson history.
However Reed is looking for even more out of his star in 2023.
“To take over a game. Come in physical stronger,” Reed said. “Be that guy that can totally shut down one side of the field. He’s got work to do. He’s ain’t there yet. But I like his presence. I like what he’s doing. He’s incorporated a lot of other things into this tool belt, which I have stressed to my guys. So now when teams are trying to diagnose him and understand what he’s doing, he’s going to keep them on their toes.”
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