Lorenzo Ward talks Clowney, composition of 2014 defense

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina's defensive coordinator discusses Clowney's final season, which underclassmen will need to step up in 2014, and which players are moving to new positions in the spring.

Lorenzo Ward's interviews are normally a drab exercise in listening to the Alabama native spit out as many coaching cliches as quickly and indecipherably as possible. (My personal favorite: when he says "we gotta teach technique and fundamentals" as if there are no spaces between the words.) However, SportsTalk was able to get him to open up and reveal details about 2014 position battles and his thoughts on the criticism of Jadeveon Clowney in the national media.

Check out the audio here or read the transcript below.

How would South Carolina have fared against Florida State or Auburn?

I think we probably could have beaten both of them... I just feel like, as a team, we got better as the season went. We won six straight football games, and they weren't easy football games. We were down in some games. We were up in some games. You want to be at your peak when you play your last ball game.

What was it like to coach Jadeveon Clowney in his final season?

JD understood that every team after the first half of the season had a gameplan to either run away from him or double-team him or triple-team him. He was good and focused, and he understood that. It didn't affect him as much mentally as it did physically. Because you've got to try to beat two or three guys every time to make a play. But he didn't care about stats. He was a team guy. Coach Adams did a great job of keeping him focused, and I thought he played well. He went out with a bang in the bowl game.

Was any of the criticism of Clowney's effort or commitment to the team warranted?

Not at all. If you go back and you look at who voted JD an All-American, it was the coaches because they turn the video on every day. He played hard. Not anyone can say that JD took this season easy so he wouldn't get hurt. He played very, very hard, and if you turn the video on, it'll show that.

How did the linebackers develop over the course of the season?

We kept things simple early and we started to do more as the season went. And they picked it up as the season went. I think this corps of linebackers could be the best that have played here since I've been here, for sure. They're athletic and we need them to get bigger and stronger.

How will you replace Clowney and Sutton at defensive end?

We'll have to hopefully get some weight on Darius [English]. We've already moved Cedrick Cooper to defensive end. I feel like Cedrick could be in the mold of some of those young men that's playing at Missouri. He's going to try to put 15 pounds on this offseason. Coach Adams is really excited about him at that position.

Who will step up to replace Kelcy Quarles at defensive tackle?

I think as a group they'll be fine. Gerald [Dixon, Jr.] played well when we had to play him. Phillip [Dukes] is a young man that really came on this season. If he grows as much as he did next season as he did this one, then Philip will be a really good football player for us. We did a good job of trying to get Kelsey Griffin ready to play. We didn't redshirt him. Kelsey has a lot of ability. We're excited about him. Abu Lamin, who comes from junior college--we expect him to be in the end as well... Deon Green needs to put on more weight to play a substantial amount of plays because of his size.

Do you have enough athletes at cornerback?

We feel like we've got a couple of quality players that we could play with, but we definitely need to bring some true corners in from outside... We'd definitely like to sign at least three to four true corners... We'd like to add at least one to two more to what we already have committed...

We'll see about Brison [Williams] playing some corner. I felt like when I recruited Brison here that he could play corner. We know he can play safety because he's done it for the past couple of years for us. We'll let him play corner in the spring so we can make sure we have some more depth at that position.

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