DL Spring Outlook
|Monday, February 27, 2017, 9:16 AM- -|
DL Spring Outlook
The Clemson staff had perhaps the nation's best combination of defensive line coaches in Dan Brooks and Marion Hobby, and it was no coincidence that they might have the nation's top defensive lines in 2017. However, Hobby went to the NFL and Brooks retired. The new proud papa of the defensive front is former Alabama star James Bates who comes over from Jacksonville State. How the defensive line adjusts to Bates might be the top storyline of the spring at this spot.
Another storyline this spring will be the role of a Christian Wilkins. I expect Wilkins will move back inside and play beside fellow five-star tackle Dexter Lawrence. You could make a case this duo might go down as one of the greatest defensive tackle combos in college football history. I can't name too many duos I would take over these two five star All-Americans. Quarterbacks hate pressure up the middle, and this drop can push the pocket and cause major disruption in 2017.
Wilkins played 706 snaps last season, mostly at defensive end. He recorded 56 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, broke up ten passes and pressured the passer 20 times.
As a true freshman, Lawrence played 643 snaps and recorded 78 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, and 23 quarterback pressures.
Depth was also a strength before Scott Pagano decided to transfer. Albert Huggins now has a huge opportunity ahead of him. He is a very talented player, but his role will be much bigger this spring. Last season Huggins played 218 snaps. He recorded 20 tackles, three tackles for loss, three sacks and pressured the passer seven times.
Jabril Robinson played 65 snaps last season has made a positive impression on many and shown some very good signs so far at tackle. He might be the fourth tackle, but that could also go to red-shirt freshman Nyles Pickney. The staff raves about this being Grady Jarrett clone. Sterling Johnson played 46 snaps last season and will also get a long look this spring.
The defensive ends are almost as talented as the tackles. Clelin Ferrell had a great freshman season and is poised to make the jump to be a superstar in 2017. Ferrell dominated in the Fiesta Bowl and was a major part of the national title run. As a true freshman, he had 759 snaps and recorded 50 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and pressured the passer 24 times.
Austin Bryant was hampered by the injury that forced him to miss the first half of the season, but he can be another dominant force now that his time has come. Bryant played in nine games and registered 244 snaps. He had 16 tackles including three tackles for loss and two sacks.
Richard Yeargin has been very solid the past two seasons and is a player that can be counted on this spring. Yeargin played 189 snaps and had 14 tackles for a loss.
The storyline this spring may be Xavier Kelly. This past fall when we got our first look at Kelly, we couldn't tell a difference between Ferrell, Bryant, or Kelly. In fact, they all looked like Shaq Lawson to me. Kelly may be the best star here. I am excited to see where he is this spring.
Chris Register was solid in his 142 plays last season and gives the staff another option at defensive end. This spring could be even bigger for Lasamuel Davis who red-shirted last season. He is still a lanky prospect that needs to continue to add weight and strength, but he has explosiveness and is "twitchy". I will be excited to see how far he has come since the fall.
A new coach, a position change, some red-shirt freshmen and a bunch of very talented defensive linemen make this position very interesting in the spring practice which begins later this week.
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