Spring Practice Preview: Clemson secondary overhaul starts in spring

by - Staff Writer -
Turner will be a leader in the secondary.
Turner will be a leader in the secondary.

After coming up short in the national championship game, the expectations are still higher than ever and with spring practice kicking off Wednesday, it’s time to take a look at where Clemson stands position by position.

The Clemson secondary sees the biggest overhaul on the defensive side with three starters and four Tigers with 300-plus snaps gone from that run.


Roster (depth chart returners, freshmen)

CB LeAnthony Williams - Redshirt junior (5-11 185)

CB Derion Kendrick - Junior (6-0 190)

CB Mario Goodrich - Junior (6-0 190)

CB Andrew Booth Jr. - Sophomore (6-0 185)

CB Sheridan Jones - Sophomore (6-0 180)

CB Fred Davis - Freshman^ (6-1 185)

CB Malcolm Greene - Freshman (5-11 185)

DB Jalyn Phillips - Sophomore (6-1 205)

S Nolan Turner - Redshirt senior (6-1 195)

S Joseph Charleston - Sophomore (6-0 190)

S Lannden Zanders - Sophomore (6-1 195)

S Ray Thornton III - Redshirt freshman (6-1 205)

S RJ Mickens - Freshman^ (6-0 190)

S Tyler Venables - Freshman^ (5-10 190)

^ Enrolled in January.

Three Questions

Who steps in at safety?

Two All-ACC safeties plus another key contributor moved on in graduation with K’Von Wallace, Tanner Muse and Denzel Johnson, leaving Nolan Turner as the lone safety with much experience at this level.

Turner is in line to take over one safety starting spot after making four starts and tallying 10 pass breakups and two interceptions in 538 snaps last year. One of those picks sealed the Fiesta Bowl and Clemson’s berth in a fourth national title game in five seasons.

The other spot? That’s wide open for a big crew of underclassmen, including two mid-year enrollees in RJ Mickens and Tyler Venables. Joseph Charleston, Lannden Zanders, Jalyn Phillips and Ray Thornton III all will look to build on experience gained in the fall to compete for snaps in 2020.

Who moves into AJ Terrell’s vacated spot?

AJ Terrell moved on to the NFL as expected and there could be a pretty good fight for those snaps in 2020.

Andrew Booth Jr. and Sheridan Jones were two highly-regarded prospects who saw action in a variety of roles last year without a redshirt. Mario Goodrich, a rising junior, played the most of those vying for the spot last season with two pass breakups and an interception in 205 plays.

Fred Davis, a former five-star prospect, is on campus this spring to throw his hat in the ring for early snaps as well.

The talent around the position is undeniable -- now it’s just a matter of who will step up this offseason to get on the field.

What’s the ceiling for Derion Kendrick?

This time last year, Derion Kendrick was still a wide receiver, and months later, he made second-team All-ACC at cornerback with six pass breakups and two interceptions in nearly 700 snaps last year.

He’s in line to be a leader in the secondary now as a junior and he’s showed the skills to earn plenty of honors this season. A full offseason in the secondary could boost him all that more.

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