Brooks hopes his tackles don't carry as heavy a load this season


by - Senior Writer -
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Jenkins, shown here tackling a Duke player in 2008, will be back for his senior season

CLEMSON – Ask 20 different Tiger fans you meet about the Tigers’ late-season inability to stop the run in 2009, and you are liable to get 20 different answers.

Included in that slide was an embarrassing loss to South Carolina that saw the Gamecocks run for 223 yards, and a week later the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets ran roughshod over Clemson’s defense to the tune of 333 yards.

Clemson coach Dan Brooks, who coaches the defensive tackles, said last week that he thinks the problems with his tackles could have stemmed from something as simple as liking to eat.

"Jarvis [Jenkins] and Brandon [Thompson] are like me in that they like to eat,” Brooks told the media in a pre-spring question and answer session. “I thought they got a little bit heavy towards the end. Brandon got up to about 308 pounds. Jarvis was at one point up to 318."

Brooks said that both players started last season around the 300-pound mark before adding the additional weight as the season progressed, but both players have slimmed back down in the off-season and are working with Strength and Conditioning coach Joey Batson to stay trim.

"They've really bought into our program and what coach Batson is doing with them," Brooks said. "I think they might have lost a half-step last year on making a play here or there. By them losing the weight and having a good winter, it shows us that they don't feel they've arrived."

Brooks did point out, however, that he has a lot of options at the position, and he is following head coach Dabo Swinney’s mantra that all jobs are open. Jamie Cumbie, Miguel Chavis and Rennie Moore are all scholarship players that saw action last season, with Cumbie in on 370 plays, Chavis just over 300 and Moore logging nearly 200 plays.

The aforementioned Jenkins briefly flirted with the idea of leaving for the NFL in the off-season, and Brooks said he made the right decision in deciding to return to Clemson.

"D-linemen are so hard to find, so he would have gotten drafted, but it wouldn't have been where he was deserving of going down the road,” Brooks said. “He should get his degree and then get drafted."

Brooks came on board before spring practice a year ago, and immediately started emphasizing technique with his players, and said that this spring won’t be much different as he focuses on hand placement and footwork.

"You do have to continuously stay on top of technique,” Brooks said. “It's a constant deal. Everything we have to do with coach Steele is pretty much in a gap control scheme and guys understand to take care of their jobs. Whoever does that the best will play. We've been in the scheme for a year, so they know what's going on."

Another option for Brooks could be redshirt freshman Tyler Shatley.

"I've known his high school coach for years,” he said. “I looked at Tyler before I got here. He played fullback in high school and people had a hard time tackling him. He's played very little defense in his life but this spring will be great for him. He did a great job on the scout team last year. People came in every week bragging on him. He's really taken what we've thrown at him and run with it."

Josh Watson, who comes to Clemson via Hargrave Military Academy, was listed by Rivals.com as the nation’s top-ranked defensive tackles prospect coming out the prep school ranks this year, and he will be thrown into the competition, but Brooks said he has no idea yet whether it would be best for Watson to redshirt or not.

"I never tell a kid he's definitely going to red-shirt or definitely going to play because that'll make a liar out of you,” he said. “You just don't know. Jamie and Rennie were in and then had to red-shirt. I had a guy one year who broke his ankle in the second game of his sophomore season and he had to take a medical red-shirt. Until we get into spring and put the pads on, you don't know how he'll fit and how he'll compete. We saw him compete against UNC's freshmen, but he hasn't lined up against Dalton Freeman and Antoine McClain. So sure, we have some numbers, but you can never have too many d-linemen."

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