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Goodwin trying to ‘be more demanding, not demeaning’ with Tigers’ defense

Katie Bradham, Photo Editor

Clemson defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin talks with recruits ahead of the Tigers’ game against Louisiana Tech at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 17, 2022.

Coming into this season, there was a lot of speculation about how Clemson’s defense would perform under first-year defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin, but through six games, Goodwin’s unit has begun to come into its own.
After some defensive hiccups to start the season and a less-than-stellar performance at Wake Forest, the Tigers’ defense has cleaned up its performance and is competing at the same level as years past.
Speaking on that success on Monday, Goodwin talked about the transition he has made in his coaching style and what he has learned in his first year at the position. 
“(I’ve learned to) block out all the outside noise and just continue to stay focused on the process,” Goodwin said.
Through six games, Clemson’s defense has allowed 18.3 points per game and 319.7 total yards per game.
For Goodwin, part of that success can be attributed to his development as a coach.
“I’ve learned to be more demanding, not demeaning, and raise the intensity level,” Goodwin said. “You may not see that on the sidelines per se, but you would at practice and halftime adjustments.”
Although the two coaching styles are similar, the distinction for Goodwin is clear-cut.
“For demanding, you’re trying to get them to raise the level of play and attention to detail, the focus and the intensity,” Goodwin added. “Whereas demeaning, you’re attacking the person versus the process or the action. So, coach them hard, but love them even harder.” 
Goodwin’s coaching shifts as the season prolongs are translating onto the field. After holding Boston College to 1.1 yards per rush and 3.5 yards per play, Goodwin looks to be settling into the role and steering his defense in a dominant direction. 
Goodwin has also had to navigate through his defense being plagued by injuries often this season.
However, this past week, defensive end Xavier Thomas returned to the field, adding even more depth and experience to the defensive line. 
With two sacks in just six snaps, Thomas’ return impressed his defensive coordinator.
“His speed off the edge, his quickness, it’s uncommon,” Goodwin said. “Really cool to see him get that opportunity. Just having to be patient and having a really great offseason and having to change his mindset, he has really matured into a great leader for that group.”
While preparing for this Saturday’s matchup with Florida State, Goodwin has his sights set on the threat the Seminole offense will pose.
With starting quarterback Jordan Travis versatile in both the run and passing game, the defensive coordinator knows Travis will be a handful for Clemson’s defense.
“It will be a challenge this week,” Goodwin said. “(Travis’) ability to extend plays and obviously being a major factor in the run game. He’s gained experience growing more as a passer as well, so it will just be a huge, tremendous challenge. We have got to do a good job with scramble lanes and zone drops underneath. We have to have great vision so we can come up in time for it as well.”
With the scrambling of Travis in the run game, Clemson’s defense will have to be physical and be ready to play out of the gates.
Goodwin will continue to learn and adapt to his role as defensive coordinator, including getting the most out of his players and putting them in positions to succeed. 

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