Injuries hurting defensive depth as opener nears

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Kendrick has missed time this week
Kendrick has missed time this week

CLEMSON – Clemson’s young defense needed all hands on deck for the final scrimmage inside Memorial Stadium Thursday morning, but several players are still out nursing nagging injuries, meaning the coaches won’t get a real look at what they can do until the games start.

The Tigers play in less than two weeks – opening up against Georgia Tech on August 29th – and will do so with several key players receiving fewer reps than the coaches would have liked in fall camp.

"We were really thin. Justin Mascoll got banged up early, Justin Foster was out today. So we didn’t have a lot of depth at end,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “I thought those guys showed up. K.J. (Henry) made a couple of plays, Xavier Thomas made some plays, but we just don’t have good depth. We can’t afford to have a setback. You get a hamstring, you get back out there too early, you could be out for a while. Baylon (Spector) and Jake (Venables) are ready-to-play guys. They’re committed. They know their stuff.”

Linebackers Jake Venables and Baylon Spector, defensive end Justin Foster, and cornerback Mario Goodrich have missed time with injury. Cornerback Derion Kendrick has also battled injury but missed Thursday’s scrimmage because he was attending the funeral of a former high school teammate.

“It’s just a shame that they missed this live work, so it’s going to be into the season kind of getting them up to speed,” Swinney said. “But I think by Monday those guys will be ready to go."

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said he isn’t worried about his defense.

"We're probably right where we're supposed to be, to be honest, all things considered," Venables said. "We're not a great unit by any means yet. But hopefully, we will be. There's definitely enough buy-in. Immaturity is an issue, but guys are growing up fast. We're baptizing them every day. It's exciting because it's still a hungry group of guys. You've just gotta run them into stuff, you know what I mean? You gotta run them into a wall and make them like it. Whatever that looks like."

His first-team unit “won” over the second-team offense in Thursday’s scrimmage.

“Our first group has gotten better, that maybe six or eight guys who have made improvement since starting camp,” Venables said. “We still need to make an improvement over the next couple of weeks. We have all been here before, but it’s exciting because they are a hungry group of guys. You just have to run them into things, you have to run them into a wall and make sure they like it.”

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Tags: Justin Mascoll, Justin Foster, Xavier Thomas, Jake Venables, Baylon Spector, Mario Goodrich, Derion Kendrick, Brent Venables
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