Clemson Will ‘No Question’ Have Championship Caliber Defensive Front

Mickey Conn is extremely confident in Clemson’s defense, particularly up front.

After the Tigers held their second scrimmage of the spring last Wednesday in Death Valley, Clemson’s co-defensive coordinator was asked about the defensive front, and if it would be national championship caliber.

“There’s no question,” Conn said.

However, Conn did add one caveat, saying every player must buy in, and not start getting overconfident due to the hype.

“As long as they put in the work between now and the start of the season and they don’t read their own press clippings.” 

With new faces on the coaching staff on the defensive side of the ball, the plan for this spring was to slow some things down when it comes to installation, but now that the spring is almost over, Conn said the defense is in a very similar spot as it was at the same time last season.

“We’re about at the same spot, but we’ve just spent more time on the front end learning it, perfecting it, and trying to master different nuances of the scheme.” 

While Clemson’s front four might be loaded, due to every starter coming back, as well as some key reserves, the Tigers do have some pieces to replace on the backend. Two starting linebackers have moved on, as well as both starting corners.

However, at safety, the position that Conn coaches, the Tigers also bring everybody back. The ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year, Andrew Mukuba returns, as does Jalyn Phillips, who is coming off a superb 2021 season.

Clemson also signed 4-star Sherrod Covil as part of the 2022 recruiting class, and while Conn knew the Tigers were getting an elite-level talent, the freshman has been even better than expected in his first spring on campus.

“I knew he was a physical player, but the way he can cover and his instincts and read offenses is special,” Conn said. “He’s going to be a special player.”

As for the rest of the spring, Conn is just looking for his safeties to keep progressing as they have been, something he believes will help with the continuation of building confidence.

“Continue to improve coverage-wise and continue to get better with our keys and reads,” Conn said. “Just keep building our confidence and the cohesive. That’s the main thing, guys just need to be confident to play fast.” 

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