Last season Clemson’s defense was a work in progress, but still had a much better season than the previous year. The Tigers ranked 24th in points allowed at 22.2 points per game and led the nation in tackles for loss with 123. Much of the stars of the defense return, with the exception of Spencer Shuey, Quandon Christian, and Bashaud Breeland.
The d-line could be among the best in school history, with Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett leading the way. D.J. Reader, Corey Crawford, Deshawn Williams, and Josh Watson have also been solid in their time with the Tigers. Young guys that could make an impact are Shaq Lawson, Ebenezer Ogundeko, and Scott Pagano. Others like Martin Aiken, Tavaris Barnes, and Carlos Watkins are definitely guys that could compete for field time also.
Bottom Line: The defensive line is the strongest part of Clemson’s team next year, including offensive groups. The 123 tackles for loss last season was a school record, and the Tigers should be just as good or better this season.
Stephone Anthony is a guy that really showed out last season and will be one of the stars on Clemson’s defense. Young guys like Ben Boulware and Dorian O’Daniel have done good things in spring camp and will likely see time on the field this season. Dabo said Boulware has been working at the WILL position, getting some experience there. Boulware will likely be the middle linebacker when Anthony graduates, but playing him some on the weak side will get him more playing time this season.
Tony Steward, like Anthony, was a big-time recruit and has done good things in his time at Clemson, but hasn’t quite fulfilled the expectations yet, mostly due to injuries. The Tigers need him to step up this season and be a senior leader. B.J. Goodson, Kellen Jones, and T.J. Burrell are other names to watch at linebacker.
Bottom Line: Anthony and Steward will be the senior leaders for the linebackers, and Korrin Wiggins will likely play at the SAM position, among other spots. Linebackers should be a solid part of this defensive group.
The secondary is the question mark of the defense. The unit could be good this year, but there’s just nothing to base assumptions off right now besides spring practice. Travis Blanks didn’t look as good in his sophomore season, but will try to rebound and have a solid year.
Jayron Kearse and Robert Smith played well for the Tigers down the stretch, and should be solid contributors this season. Youngsters such as Mackenzie Alexander, Adrian Baker, Jadar Johnson, and Cordrea Tankersley will all be names to watch this season.
T.J. Green made the move from wide receiver to safety, and that should really help Venables’ defense because of Green’s size. He will likely compete for solid playing time, if not a starting position.
Dabo has stated that Alexander and Baker look really good through spring ball. Though they lost Darius Robinson and Bashaud Breeland, the Tigers still have Martin Jenkins and Garry Peters at cornerback. Korrin Wiggins got playing time last year at defensive back, and will play some in that rotation this season also.
Bottom Line: The Tigers’ question mark will for sure by in the secondary. Getting Travis Blanks back to playing like he can will be big for Dabo’s squad. Guys like Alexander and Baker will have to step up, and Martin Jenkins will need to stay healthy. Wiggins, Green, and Kearse should play well this season, but are still young and may have learning moments at times. Garry Peters and Robert Smith, along with Jenkins, will need to be the vocal leaders in this group.