In last year’s 40-37 overtime win against Miami, Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel had seven tackles and two interceptions, including one he returned 23 yards for a touchdown. McDaniel, a Tallahassee native, has been off to a good start this season. He had five tackles, a tackle for loss and an interception in the loss at Auburn. McDaniel now has 14 career tackles for loss and 12 career interceptions, an example of his all-around abilities as a defender. The only other two Clemson players on record with double figures in tackles for loss and interceptions are Donnell Woolford, who had 12 tackles for loss and 10 interceptions in his career between 1985-88, and Michael Hamlin, who had 12 tackles for loss and 14 interceptions between 2005-08. I spoke with McDaniel earlier this week. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
What do you see from Jacory Harris on film with the interceptions he’s been throwing? Do you see any opportunities for yourself there?
DeAndre McDaniel: (He laughed.) Every quarterback I look at I try to see if I can see myself getting an interception on him, but he’s a good quarterback. He’s calm and everything, but sometimes he does put the ball up for grabs.
Is there a trend there you see, though?
DM: I’m not really sure. I think it’s more just when he gets a little pressure on him. I guess he believes in his receivers a lot that they can make plays for him.
And how do you think you guys match up against those receivers?
DM: I think we match up very well. We know they have a lot of talented receivers with a good quarterback, but we have a pretty good set of corners and safeties in our secondary.
What do you think is going to be the difference in this one?
DM: It’s going to be whoever’s defense can get the ball back for the offense. Whoever gets the most turnovers. That’s what we’re working on.
Do you personally feel like you’re having another All-American season?
DM: I don’t know. I’ve been playing pretty good, but I see that I’m down on interceptions when I should be getting more.
You pay pretty close attention to that?
DM: Yeah, I see I have more pass deflections than I had last year already. I’m pretty much breaking the ball up more this year than catching them.
So you’re a stat guy. Interceptions at some point, too, are a matter of opportunity, right?
DM: Yeah, it is. But there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as the receiver’s not catching the ball.
When you study film, if you’re putting on a clinic for me, and I’m sitting in a room watching film with you and you’re breaking it down, what are the main things you’re looking at to see if you could have a good game against the quarterback?
DM: I try to see how the quarterback, first if he’s more of a look-off guy or more of a stare-down guy. That’s the first thing I look at to see where his eyes are going to be. Second is more where the receivers line up and how they run their routes – if they line up inside the hash when they’re running an out-route and which routes they throw in certain positions.
For defending the Atlantic Division title, is there anything you feel Clemson needs to improve upon in order to do that before ACC play really gets started?
DM: Our main goal is to get better on defense right now. That’s my main focus anyways. We played a good game against Auburn but let up in the third quarter. That’s more of our main focus, to eliminate some of those big plays.
Why do you think it’s been so inconsistent?
DM: We just give up too many big plays. If we eliminate the big plays, we’ll be pretty good.