Other players along Clemson’s defensive front may get more of the notoriety, but make no mistake, Tyler Davis is the anchor of the Tigers’ defensive line.
Davis suffered an injury in the season opening win over Wake Forest last season, missed several games and would quickly reinjure himself after returning. He never was at full strength after the original injury according to defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
“Got hurt early last year, came back, got hurt in practice again, and wasn’t the same,” Venables said after one of Clemson’s final spring practices.
Davis burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2019, earning a starting role right out of the gate. He would be named second-team All-ACC that season after becoming a key piece along the interior of the Clemson defense.
As good as Davis has been over his first two seasons, there are areas in which he has been working to improve. Venables said assistant coach Todd Bates put together a specific plan for Davis this spring.
“Tyler’s still a young player, so we really worked,” Venables said. “Coach Bates did a great job of finding ways to get him better. And obviously identifying those things… where we got to play quicker, where we got to be more disruptive, where we got to play more vertical, where we got to play more violent, where we got to improve our pass rush and where we got to win more one on ones. (Bates) put together a great plan to get those guys better.”
Opposite Davis at the other defensive tackle spot is former five-star recruit Bryan Bresee. The rising sophomore’s ceiling is extremely high and Venables thinks they have only scratched the surface when it comes to Bresee’s potential.
“Tyler is really, man, he and Bryan have really made great improvements,” Venables said. “Bryan was a tremendous talent (as a freshman), and at times, really flashed and was really special. And then other times, he’d be the first to tell you he got humbled and took it on the chin, like all young players. He’s at one of the toughest positions for a young player to play at the interior defensive line, and I thought he had a great year.”
What happened to the Clemson defense against Ohio State was a humbling experience, according to Venables. No one has taken that to heart more than Davis, and the Clemson defensive coordinator said his veteran defensive tackle came into the spring intent on never letting that happen again.
“In the Ohio State game, when we got knocked off the ball, everybody did, we all got knocked on our butts all night long,” Venables said. “So that’s been a real focus for Tyler, to be good again, let alone great. We got to play great in the middle, and the defense starts up front. So really proud of the work he has put in and the self-awareness of where he has to get better. He’s put his hard hat on and went to work every day going after it.”