What Dabo Swinney wants to see from Wes Goodwin, Clemson defense in 2023

On3 imageby:Matt Connolly03/26/23

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The Clemson defense wasn’t as dominant as many coaches and players inside the program hoped it would be or expected it to be in 2022.

It was a solid season for first-year defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin, but there is optimism that the Tigers should be better on that side of the ball this season after allowing 21 points and 334 yards per game a year ago.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney explained earlier this spring how Goodwin can look to improve from Year 1 to Year 2 as a DC.

“Just going through everything and evaluating all the calls, evaluating all the personnel, situational stuff,” Swinney said. “Sometimes the stats don’t show what you want. Sometimes it may show certain things, but it’s still not what you want it to be.”

While not everything was the way Swinney wanted it to be last season, he still fully believes in Goodwin and feels that the Tigers have an excellent defensive staff.

Goodwin is joined on the defensive side of the ball by defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall, defensive tackles coach Nick Eason, cornerbacks coach Mike Reed and safeties coach Mickey Conn.

Swinney fired Brandon Streeter as Clemson’s offensive coordinator following the Orange Bowl loss to Tennessee, but he did not make any changes to the defensive staff.

“I think we’re in a really good place in that room,” Swinney said. “I love the staff. I love the coaches. Wes has a great grasp on it. We know what went right and what didn’t and what we’ve gotta do to get better.”

There’s no doubt the biggest area that Clemson needs to improve this offseason.

“The No. 1 thing is pass defense. It’s as simple as that,” Swinney said.

The Tigers allowed 232 passing yards per game, nearly 7 yards per attempt and 11 yards per catch in 2022.

There were positive moments for the Clemson pass defense, for sure, but the Tigers allowed at least 250 passing yards in eight of 14 games and more than 300 yards on three different occassions.

The pass defense played a critical role in Clemson losing games to South Carolina and Tennessee late in the season.

Just like with the coaching staff, Swinney believes the Tigers have the right players in the secondary. But they need them to play better.

The good news is starters Sheridan Jones, Nate Wiggins, Andrew Mukuba and Jalyn Phillips all return.

“We think we’ve got good players. We think we’re going to have more depth than we’ve had. But we’ve got to execute a little bit better,” Swinney said. “So that’ll be a big focus for us. If we’re better with our pass defense and better with our pass offense, we’re gonna have another great season.”