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Goodwin, Mickens give perspective on Clemson’s 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.

Following a 48-20 victory over Louisiana Tech last week, Clemson defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin and safety R.J. Mickens discussed their opinions on the Clemson defense.
As the Tigers have one of the most well-respected defenses in the country, letting up 20 points was not ideal, but Goodwin was pleased with his players stepping up in key spots.
Specifically, Goodwin and the Tigers’ defense was without four defensive starters: defensive tackles Bryan Breese and Tyler Davis, safety Andrew Mukuba and cornerback Nate Wiggins
“It was a great opportunity with five starters out for a lot of guys to get some crucial playing experience and no better teacher than on that game field,” Goodwin said.
Still, after giving up 317 total yards to the Bulldogs, Goodwin sees a lot of areas to correct.
“Obviously not perfect, a lot to coach from and clean up but really cool to see all those guys go out and compete and lay it on the line,” Goodwin said. 
Goodwin noted that he saw major improvement from his unit’s performance in against Louisiana Tech, including the defense recording 12 passes defended.
Meanwhile, Mickens seemed to have the same perspective as Goodwin in that it was a good experience for the younger players, but he also saw much room for improvement.
“Kind of had some ups and downs,” Mickens said. “But everyone battled through, and a lot of guys got experience and made plays, and it was just a great experience.” 
The junior safety started off on a high note on Saturday, intercepting Louisiana Tech wide receiver Tre Harris on a trick play at the 4:20 mark in the first quarter.
Despite Mickens’ interception, the Tigers were only up 13-6 heading into halftime, and there was a need to change mindsets to be dominant in the second half.
“(At) Halftime, we just had to regroup and focus on us and just play our brand of football and not play to an opponent, and just come out and do the small things right,” Mickens said.
As a sophomore last season, Mickens had 37 tackles, two interceptions and two pass breakups over 337 snaps in 13 games.
Having experience under his belt, he was confident in himself to fill in for Mukuba at the starting free safety spot.
“I was ready to play,” Mickens said. “(I was) confident in myself and trusting the guys around me. We got great linebackers, great d-line, great safeties, so have a lot of confidence in them.” 
Clemson’s defense will hope to contain No. 21 Wake Forest and take the win at Truist Field on Sept. 24 at noon. 

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