Prepare Yourselves, Clemson Defense Should Be Downright Nasty in 2021

Since arriving at Clemson, Brent Venables has become known for fielding sone of the best defensive units in the country, most notably during the years of the Power Rangers, that consisted of a front four of Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Austin Bryant

Three of those guys were first round picks and the other went in the fourth. Heading into the 2021 season, it’s very possible Venables’ defense will feature a front comparable to that stout group.

Clemson’s defensive line is loaded. There’s just no other way to say it. On top of that, there’s quality depth. The Tigers can go two-deep at every position and should be able to do so with little to no drop off.

The front four will be anchored by a fully healthy Tyler Davis and Bryan Bresee. There might not be a better duo of interior defensive linemen in the country. Behind those guys are players like Ruke Orhorhoro, whose ceiling is extremely high, he’s just got to stay healthy. Heading into his third season, Orhorhoro could be on the verge of a breakout.

The Tigers also have uber-talented Tre Williams. The rising sophomore spent last season learning and is ready to start contributing. True freshman Payton Page, one of the best defensive tackles in the 2021 class, is a mountain of a man and will be a force to be reckoned with when he gets on the field. Don’t forget Demonte Capehart either, an extremely talented guy who often gets overlooked. If he’s fully recovered from some medical issues, he could be a guy getting plenty of snaps.

On the outside is Myles Murphy, KJ Henry, Justin Mascoll and the extremely determined Xavier Thomas. Greg Williams is another guy that can be called upon in pass rushing situations, as is true freshman Cade Denhoff.

Again, plenty of talent and a ton of depth along the defensive front. Venables should not have to rely on blitzing to get after the quarterback this season. Having said that, Venables is always going to bring the house at times, but over the past couple of seasons the Tigers have need to blitz to get pressure and that should not be the case in 2021.

In turn, that should have a tremendous impact on the pass defense. The Clemson secondary was wildly inconsistent last season, especially the safeties. A dominant pass rush will take some of the pressure off the backend of the defense.

The secondary should be better this season, though. However, there are some depth concerns at corner, so those guys need to stay healthy.

The Tigers have former five-stars Andrew Booth Jr and Fred Davis on the outside. We all know what Booth is capable of and we should see a lot more out of Davis in 2021. Sheridan Jones is primed for a breakout season and freshman Nate Wiggins had an outstanding spring. Then there is the veteran Mario Goodrich, who when healthy, has shown he has the capability to be really good and Malcom Greene should take a big step in year two.

Nolan Turner and Lannden Zanders are both back at safety. Zanders took his lumps last year while playing through an injury, but should be better with a season of experience under his belt. Joseph Charleston, Ray Thornton, RJ Mickens and Jalyn Phillips also return and are expected to take big steps forward. Freshman Andrew Mukuba is the wildcard. After an outstanding spring he could find himself with some early opportunities.

Then there are the linebackers. One of the deepest positions on the team. James Skalski and Baylon Spector both return as starters and Trenton Simpson will man the SAM. Jake Venables, Keith Maguire, Kane Patterson and LaVonta Bentley gives the team a ton of depth. Freshman Barrett Carter could see some time as a nickel/SAM guy, though after not being able to enroll early, he will have a lot to learn in a short amount of time.

After the way the Ohio State offense had its way with this defense in the Sugar Bowl, expect this group to come into the season with something to prove. Throughout the spring players were heard talking about the chip on their shoulder, and opening against Georgia gives this group a shot at quickly silencing any doubters.

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