Clemson football: Defensive back room rated behind conference foe

Clemson football is used to having the best rated positional groups in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Even when attrition hits, the Tigers strong recruiting game typically puts the Tigers into a familiar place in the ACC – at the top of nearly every list.

Such is not the case for the defensive backs as we look forward to the 2022 season, at least not for CBS Sports.

It’s true that the Tigers lost some significant pieces in the defensive backfield, including recent second round pick Andrew Booth, Jr. and free agents Mario Goodrich and Nolan Turner.

Booth, Jr. and Goodrich combined for 1,122 snaps at the cornerback position and Turner another 608 at safety.

The cupboard is not bare though, as the Tigers have a mix of experience and true freshman firepower on the backend of the defense.

Veterans Andrew Mukuba, Sheridan Jones, R.J. Mickens, Jalyn Phillips, Malcolm Greene, Fred Davis, Nate Wiggins and Landen Zanders all return with varying degrees of experience.

Mukuba, Jones and Mickens played in all 13 games, with Mukuba starting 10, Jones 3 and Mickens 2.

Tigers defensive back room had significant departures, but a mix of veteran experience and top end young talent will staff the unit in 2022

While the losses of Booth, Jr. and Goodrich should not be overlooked, neither should be the young talent the Tigers brought in to fill the void.

Both highly rated corners Jeadyn Lukus (30th overall) and Toriano Pride (80th overall) enrolled early and arrived on campus in January, giving the Tigers an intriguing mix of experience, depth and potential young stars.

The loss of Turner, once an afterthought and “wasted” scholarship to many, but a steady leader and quarterback of the defensive backfield, may be more difficult to overcome at least early in the season.

Sherrod Covil, Jr. also an early enrollee and a fringe top 200 player as a safety could play a significant role early.

Overall, I think the rating is fair and even perhaps a bit generous as despite the losses and unproven, but talented, freshmen Clemson is still rated as one of the top 10 defensive backfields in the nation.