Spring Preview: The Defense

There maybe some questions on the back end of the defense but the D-Line has garnered more excitement than it has questions after seeing the talent signed in 2020. Dabo, Brent Venables, and the staff worked hard to get the pieces they knew were needed to shore up the defensive front.

At this point it looks like Jordan Williams and Nyles Pinckney will compete and give each other the push to get better. As far as Pinckney’s ankle injury, Dabo Swinney mentioned that he will probably miss some practice during the spring.

Some other questions when it comes to the Defensive Line:

  1. Will Xavier Thomas’ junior season be the one that sees him become the star that most originally thought his sophomore season would be?
  2. What’s the next step in KJ Henry’s growth at this level look like?
  3. How much of an impact can five star players Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy really have in their freshman seasons?

There are a lot of questions when it comes to the back end of the defense and some might say that it’s the weak link coming into spring and fall camps.

One huge question in that area is how BV will utilize his SAM spot next season. Mike Jones Jr. was listed as Isaiah Simmons’ backup on the depth charts in 2019. However, it was Simmons getting all the snaps with Jones mostly seeing the field in mop-up duty.

Some think Jalyn Phillips is a player to be really excited about. He could very well be the most versatile player on the roster in the back seven coming into the 2020 season.

Jamie Skalksi’s return for a fifth season will be a huge help at LB. Baylon Spector showed lots of promise as a freshman.

Two huge losses the Tigers had on defense came in the secondary. The departures of Tanner Muse and K’Von Wallace could be bigger blows than some may think.

Nolan Turner is a good player and many are high on Lannden Zanders, Joseph Charleston, and Ray Thornton, III (redshirted due to injury) at that position. Muse did catch a lot of flack at times, but was an important part, as was Wallace, on a defense that did more than most expected last year. Some are expecting Zanders to earn a starting spot at safety.

Some other things to keep an eye on:

  1. Will five star LB Trenton Simpson, who is on campus already, push for early playing time and make an impact in his freshman season
  2. Will four star DB R.J. Mickens be able to help out immediately in the secondary?
  3. Just how healthy will the Tigers be at corner during Spring Practice and going through the summer? Andrew Booth will miss most of spring ball due to rehabbing a knee injury, and Mario Goodrich also went into the offseason dealing with an ankle injury.

So, when looking at Clemson’s 2020 defense, how does it look as a whole? Well, their most experienced players in the secondary are a converted wide receiver in his second season as a defensive back, and one of Clemson’s most leaned upon defensive backs from 2019. It would be hard not to notice the departures and think these guys will be replaced without any hiccups.

The back end guys will need time to settle into their roles. This means that it’s time for this defensive line to step up their level of play, and prove that the Tigers have reached the level of reloading and left the rebuilding in the past.

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