CLEMSON - Even before senior linebacker Altroy Bodrick suffered a torn
anterior cruciate ligament, Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden knew that
defensive success would come only if certain true freshmen played their way
into solid supporting roles.
That feeling is magnified today, two days after the knee injury which forced
Bodrick into a medical redshirt. The ACL tear came during Saturday's live
scrimmage at Death Valley, a workout which saw the young Tiger defense post
its third consecutive strong performance against Clemson's highly-touted
But even before he knew the extent of Bodrick's injury, Bowden spoke of the
sheer necessity of several defensive freshman providing depth under fire when
the season kicks off for real.
"Mo Fountain's a true freshman out there playing, Charles Bennett's a true
freshman out there playing, Leroy Hill...you're talking about true freshmen
second team guys," Bowden said. "To see some young bodies and see them
perform is encouraging. You're starting to see some of the question marks or
Other true freshmen who have found their way into Bowden's conversation in
the past two weeks include defensive linemen Trey Tate and Mark Jetton, and
defensive backs Jamaal Fudge and David Dunham. Each has done something
positive in practice to catch the collective eye of the coaching staff, even
as the tremendous learning curve continues to expand.
How much any of these players can contribute, if at all, remains to be seen.
But after losing seven starters a year ago, the defense is going to play its
share of youngsters - be it the aforementioned true freshmen, or the likes of
redshirt freshman Ronnie Delusme (strong safety) or sophomore Marcus Houskin
Regardless of class, all will be counted on to grow up in a hurry. Bowden's
theme this preseason has been defense, and his long-term plan clearly
includes a bit of Clemson nostalgia.
"I'd prefer to have a dominant defense, so if the young defensive guys are
more productive I'd rather have it that way with the offensive guys," Bowden
said. "Yeah, there's more flair (with the offense), but a 10-7 win is a 10-7
win. I'd rather have that than a 35-38 win...that means my defense is
"Over the course of the season that will win you more games than 35-38."
Defense Post Spring Depth Chart
DE 91 Bryant McNeal 6-5 235 *Jr.
58 J.J. Howard 6-3 220 *So.
LT 98 Nick Eason 6-4 275 *Jr.
96 Donnell Washington 6-6 320 *Fr
RT 95 Jovon Bush 6-5 305 *Sr.
97 DeJuan Polk 6-2 265 *So.
RE 56 Khaleed Vaughan 6-4 260 *So.
44 David Ellis 6-1 240 Jr.
SLB 42 Altroy Bodrick 6-1 208 *Sr.
47 Rodney Feaster 6-0 210 Jr.
WLB 46 Chad Carson 6-3 235 Sr.
41 Rodney Thomas 6-0 215 Jr.
Str 48 Braxton K. Williams 6-2 203 Sr.
45 John Leake 6-2 210 So.
SS 40 Charles Hafley 6-1 195 *Sr.
33 Rony Delusme 6-2 185 *Fr.
FS 3 Eric Meekins 6-2 190 Jr.
or 25 Marcus Houskin 6-0 200 *So.
LC 2 Brian Mance 5-11 185 Jr.
36 Toure Francis 5-10 184 So.
RC 27 Kevin Johnson 6-0 185 *So.
22 Ryan Hemby 5-10 175 *Fr.
Star - denotes weak safety position
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger and the Florence Morning News. He also hosts SportsTalk from 10 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9.