CLEMSON FOOTBALL

Barrett Carter and TJ Parker are two key playmakers on what could be an elite defensive unit this season.
Barrett Carter and TJ Parker are two key playmakers on what could be an elite defensive unit this season.

Clemson defense tagged by ESPN as one that could define the 2024 season


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ESPN outlined the 12 defenses that could define the 2024 college football season ($), and not surprisingly, Wes Goodwin's group is right in the mix.

"At a national level, more college defenses are moving toward the 3-3-5 alignment, with just three down linemen and a permanent fifth defensive back. But if Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has proved anything in recent years, it's that he's not influenced by trends," ESPN's Bill Connelly said. "He's going to do what he wants to do. That has backfired at times: Rivals such as FSU have shown they're capable of using the portal to their extreme benefit, but Swinney's allergy to transfers has prevented the Tigers from addressing weaknesses more quickly. Even so, it hasn't necessarily backfired on defense, where coordinator Wes Goodwin continues to adhere to a structure with four down linemen. Despite giving at least 285 snaps to four freshmen, the Tigers still fielded one of the best pass defenses in the country in 2023.

"Those freshmen -- end T.J. Parker (11.5 TFLs), tackle Peter Woods (7 run stops) and corners Avieon Terrell and Khalil Barnes (combined: 4 INTs, 11 breakups, 5 TFLs) -- were already among Clemson's best defenders, and now they'll anchor a unit that also returns linebacker Barrett Carter and safety R.J. Mickens (plus top-15 freshman linebacker Sammy Brown)."

In addition, Carter was named the No. 2 "most ferocious" linebacker in college football by 247Sports this week.

"With Jeremiah Trotter off to the NFL, Barrett Carter is now Clemson's featured defender and he's back with the Tigers to win a national championship, he says. In three seasons, Carter has totaled 148 tackles (83 solo), 11 pass breakups, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and one recovery. His numbers took a slight dip last season, but some of that was playing in two fewer games. He's a former five-star prospect and was ranked as the No. 18 overall player in 2021 recruiting class and No. 1 linebacker out of Suwannee (Ga.) North Gwinnett," said 247Sports' Brad Crawford.

2024 ACC members Florida State and SMU also made the ESPN list. The Seminoles are projected to have a Top 15 defensive group by ESPN's SP+ (11), while SMU is back at No. 46 after finishing No. 11 in scoring defense last year.

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