As Clemson starts spring practice, there are some big shoes to fill in places in the defensive backfield.
Mario Goodrich and Andrew Booth Jr. are both gone after earning first-team All-ACC honors a season ago. The last time that happened was 1997, when Dre Bly and Robert Williams earned the honors at UNC.
Senior Sheridan Jones will be looked to pick up where he left off last season, with career highs in both pass breakups and tackles in a reserve roles mostly, as well as be a leader for this group.
Junior Fred Davis II heads into the spring looking to continue proving to the coaches that he can be a valuable asset on the the field and to stay out of trouble off the field. Then there is sophomore Nate Wiggins who will also be working hard to prove that he deserves a shot at starting and can do more to help this Tiger defense than he did as a true freshman 2021.
Freshmen Toriano Pride and Jeadyn Lukus should both get opportunities this spring. Boh are extremely talented and were highly-rated coming out of high school.
Junior Malcolm Greene, though limited by injury some during 2021, has looked good at the nickel over his first two seasons at Clemson and has a good shot at starting this coming season.
At safety all eyes will be on sophomore sensation Andrew Mukuba to see what his second year in this system will look like after a breakout 2021. The Freshman All American and Clemson’s second straight ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year (Bryan Breese) was the first freshman defensive back to start a season opener for Clemson since the NCAA instituted permanent freshman eligibility in 1972 and started more games (10) than any other Clemson true freshman defensive back in the modern era.
Senior Jalyn Phillips also shined in 2021, starting six games. He and Mukuba developed into quite the tandem on the backend of the defense.
A big disappointment last season was seeing redshirt senior Lannden Zanders go down with a season ending injury against Georgia. He will be looking for a healthy 2022 and it will be interesting to see where he fits in.
Junior Tyler Venables is back, and is developing into a fairly solid player for this defense. Junior R.J. Mickens is another guy that has grown into a solid player and should continue to contribute.
Sherrod Covil Jr is an extremely talented freshman safety that could eventually crack the two-deep at some point. However, it won’t be easy given the talent already in front of him.
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