CLEMSON FOOTBALL

Swinney likes his defensive ends but says the group is incomplete for now
AJ Hoffler and Jahiem Lawson made some noise in the spring game.

Swinney likes his defensive ends but says the group is incomplete for now


by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney says his defensive ends will be just fine. They just have some growing up to do.

Clemson lost Justin Mascoll and Xavier Thomas during the offseason and needed to buoy the position manned by super sophomore TJ Parker. The coaches moved both Caden Story and Peter Woods – former defensive tackles – to end before the start of the spring.

During the spring game last Saturday, veteran Cade Denhoff registered four tackles for the White team, while AJ Hoffler (Orange) recorded five tackles, a sack, and 2 1/2 tackles for loss. Veteran Zaire Patterson had three tackles and a sack, and Jahiem Lawson had two tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack.

Swinney likes what he saw out of that group during the spring.

“We feel we've made good progress. We have a lot of work to do still this summer, but Chris (Rumph) has done a great job with those guys,” Swinney said. “Denhoff, he's just kind of our steady Eddie, and he's just getting better. The game has slowed down for him, and he's just relentless and tough, and he's just consistent, and he's just a guy you know can count on.”

Lawson is the younger brother of Shaq Lawson – he redshirted in 2022 and played in four games (37 snaps) last season while still molding his body.

“Jahiem has been coming. He's been on the rise,” Swinney said. “He was maybe 212 when he got to Clemson, and we were like, alright, let’s throw him over here for a year, and we'll see if he'll work, and then we'll revisit. And that's kind of what we did. And then, this past year, you started to see a little bit of it. So now he's going to be a redshirt sophomore now he's 245 pounds and he's got some athleticism. He's gotten stronger and he's just, he's a savvy kid, and I’m proud of him.

“But it's important to him. He plays with a high motor. He is a tough, very competitive kid, and it's good to see that. And he's athletic - covering the wheel route out of the backfield. I've watched him his whole life. He has been with Clay (Swinney) - they've been together forever. And so he played receiver for a long time until they finally realized you need to get on down there and let's get serious about football. But he's got athleticism and is a really good basketball player, so he's got a good future.”

Hoffler was also impressive.

“Man, his get off. We needed to see that, and for him to be able to go out and start (in the spring game) and to have the game he had,” Swinney said. “He’s twitchy, he's a natural pass rusher, but he's big. He's bigger than Jahiem now. Jahiem has kind of closed the gap from a size standpoint to where he looks like the rest of the guys. But Hoffler showed up here looking like you're supposed to look and naturally is a good pass rusher. But the game just has to slow down for him a little bit. And again, Chris (Rumph) is in it. He challenges that kid every day. It was good for him to have some success there.”

The group still has work to do before the opener against Georgia.

“Peter (Woods) wasn't able to go...but you got Caden (Story) out there who's getting a lot of reps and we got big (Darien) Mayo showing up here this summer and we got the young (Adam) Kissayi kid. So it's a group that's a work in progress,” Swinney said. “I would say that position is still incomplete. We don't have Armon Mason, you've heard me talk about Armon Mason and Armon is a kid that'll be a factor if he's healthy and he makes it back for fall. That'll be a kid that'll have a chance to get in the mix too. So, it's coming together, but that group is still a little incomplete.”

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