Defense 2014: Who will step in to provide depth?

by - Staff Writer -

Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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said over the summer that elite programs don’t have to rebuild, they simply reload.

If Clemson wants to be considered an elite program, that statement will be put to the test in 2014.

Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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’ defense took a step forward in 2013 and could be even better in 2014 despite the loss of Spencer ShueySpencer Shuey
Gr. Linebacker
#33 6-3, 230
Charlotte, NC

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, Quandon ChristianQuandon Christian
RS Sr. Linebacker
#34 6-2, 225
Lake View, SC

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, Darius RobinsonDarius Robinson
Cornerback (2010 - 2013)
#8 5-10, 175
College Park, GA

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, Bashaud BreelandBashaud Breeland
RS Jr. Cornerback
#17 6-0, 195
Allendale, SC

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and possibly Vic BeasleyVic Beasley
RS Jr. Defensive End
#3 6-3, 225
Adairsville, GA

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With spring practice, summer workouts, fall camp and 233 days until the ball is spotted, Swinney and Venables have plenty of time to figure out a depth chart; however, in the business of college football, we don’t like to wait so let’s take a look at how the Tigers defensive starting lineup might look on August 30th.

Defensive line

Even with the potential loss of superstar Vic Beasley at defensive end, Clemson could have the best defensive line that it’s had in quite some time and one of the best in the ACC.

Defensive end: Corey CrawfordCorey Crawford
Jr. Defensive End
#93 6-5, 270
Columbus, GA

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Defensive tackle: Grady JarrettGrady Jarrett
Jr. Defensive Tackle
#50 6-1, 290
Conyers, GA

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Defensive tackle: D.J. ReaderD.J. Reader
So. Defensive Tackle
#48 6-2, 335
Greensboro, NC

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or Josh WatsonJosh Watson
RS Jr. Defensive Tackle
#91 6-4, 285
Wilmington, DE

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or DeShawn WilliamsDeShawn Williams
Jr. Defensive Tackle
#99 6-1, 285
Central, SC

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Defensive end: Vic Beasley or Shaq LawsonShaq Lawson
Fr. Defensive End
#90 6-4, 260
Central, SC

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The biggest question mark for the defensive line really regards depth – who will step in and provide depth at the end spots? Will freshmen Ebenezer OgundekoEbenezer Ogundeko
Fr. Outside Linebacker
#1 6-3, 230
Brooklyn, NY

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and Dane RogersDane Rogers
Fr. Defensive End
#85 6-3, 245
Shelby, NC

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be able to provide depth, or will Martin AikenMartin Aiken
RS Fr. Defensive End
#53 6-2, 255
Bamberg, SC

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finally see meaningful snaps?

Tavaris Barnes has hinted on social media that he has played his final game at Clemson, but he could return for his senior season for experienced depth at end.

Will someone like Carlos WatkinsCarlos Watkins
So. Defensive Tackle
#94 6-3, 300
Mooresboro, NC

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move to an end spot due to the number of defensive tackles? Will tackle Scott PaganoScott Pagano
Fr. Defensive Tackle
#56 6-4, 280
Honolulu, HI

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find a way to break into the rotation at tackle?

Where do veterans like Kevin DoddKevin Dodd
So. Defensive Tackle
#98 6-4, 280
Taylors, SC

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and Roderick ByersRoderick Byers
RS So. Defensive End
#55 6-2, 275
Rock Hill, SC

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fit in? The starters appear to be somewhat set…the question is who will step in provide quality depth?


The Tigers will be replacing Christian and Shuey in the starting rotation at linebacker, but have experience at all of the linebacker positions.

Can Tony StewardTony Steward
Jr. Linebacker
#7 6-0, 235
Hastings, FL

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and Kellen Jones, who should finally be healthy, contribute and make an impact in 2014?

Could Jayron KearseJayron Kearse
Fr. Safety
#20 6-4, 205
Fort Myers, FL

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move to a linebacker position in 2014?

SAM linebacker: T.J. BurrellT.J. Burrell
RS Fr. Linebacker
#41 5-11, 215
Goose Creek, SC

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MIKE linebacker: Stephone AnthonyStephone Anthony
Jr. Linebacker
#42 6-2, 235
Polkton, NC

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WILL linebacker: Tony Steward or Kellen Jones

Steward finally gets his chance to shine after injuries and playing behind Shuey hurt his playing time. Steward played 167 snaps this season, and logged 36 tackles. Ben BoulwareBen Boulware
Fr. Outside Linebacker
#10 6-1, 230
Anderson, SC

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will provide depth at the MIKE behind Anthony, who had a stellar bowl game against Ohio St.

The SAM position is perhaps the biggest question mark – against running teams or on running downs, Christian was on the field. Against the spread or on passing downs, Korrin WigginsKorrin Wiggins
Fr. Defensive Back
#12 6-1, 185
Durham, NC

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came in and played nickel, as did Martin JenkinsMartin Jenkins
RS Jr. Cornerback
#14 5-10, 180
Roswell, GA

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Could Kearse move to the Nickel-SAM position on a full-time basis? He has the size and cover skills, and could really grow into the position.

Defensive backs

The defensive backs have been viewed as a weakness on Clemson’s defense over the last couple of seasons, but that criticism has mainly come because of youth and inexperience and a lack of depth. With several key pieces returning, could 2014 be the season that defensive backs become a strength of the defense?

Venables and defensive backs coach Mike ReedMike Reed
Defensive Backs Coach
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have a lot of options in the secondary. Who will show up and claim those spots?

Cornerback: Garry PetersGarry Peters
RS Jr. Cornerback
#26 6-0, 195
Conyers, GA

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or Martin Jenkins or Cordrea TankersleyCordrea Tankersley
Fr. Defensive Back
#25 6-1, 190
Beech Island, SC

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Safety: Jayron Kearse or Travis BlanksTravis Blanks
So. Defensive Back
#11 6-0, 190
Tallahassee, FL

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or Jadar JohnsonJadar Johnson
Fr. Defensive Back
#18 6-1, 180
Orangeburg, SC

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Safety: Robert SmithRobert Smith
Jr. Safety
#27 5-10, 210
St. George, SC

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, Korrin Wiggins or Ronald GeohaghanRonald Geohaghan
RS Fr. Defensive Back
#15 6-0, 185
Orangeburg, SC

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Cornerback: MacKensie AlexanderMacKensie Alexander
Fr. Defensive Back
#2 5-11, 185
Immokalee, FL

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or Marcus EdmondMarcus Edmond
Fr. Defensive Back
#29 6-1, 180
Hopkins, SC

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or Ryan CarterRyan Carter
Fr. Defensive Back
#31 5-10, 175
Grayson, GA

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or Adrian BakerAdrian Baker
Fr. Cornerback
#21 6-1, 170
Hollywood, FL

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Special teams

The kicking game was a strength in 2013, but with the departure of Chandler CatanzaroChandler Catanzaro
Gr. Punter / Kicker
#39 6-2, 195
Greenville, SC

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, the Tigers will be looking for another Mr. Reliable.

Will freshman Alex Spence be able to come in and beat out the experienced Ammon LakipAmmon Lakip
RS So. Kicker
#36 5-10, 185
Alpharetta, GA

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