Defensive Tackle: How the loss of Belk affects the Tigers
|Thursday, May 17, 2018, 8:34 AM- -|
Clemson’s rotation at defensive tackle is a little thinner after the news broke Wednesday that freshman defensive tackle Josh Belk was leaving the program.
In case you missed it, Belk was given his unconditional release by head coach Dabo Swinney and can transfer anywhere he wants. Belk’s high school coach told me that a family member is battling a health issue and Belk wants to be closer to home.
Belk drew rave reviews during spring practice, but I wondered how much he would have played this season. Clemson has Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins plugged in at the starting spots, with veterans Albert Huggins and Nyles Pinckney adding depth. Youngsters like Jordan Williams and Darnell Jefferies are also expected to battle for playing time.
Assuming the first four were to get the majority of playing time and Williams wouldn’t be able to redshirt, Belk was at least the sixth man in the rotation. Belk’s absence, however, changes things.
It also adds some urgency to the recruiting efforts of the Clemson staff, which now has an extra scholarship for a defensive tackle.
Belk’s absence would be felt this fall only if injuries occur along the defensive front. As I wrote earlier, even if Belk had skipped a redshirt, there were not likely to be a bunch of snaps for the Lewisville product. Where it hurts is next season and heading into next spring.
Wilkins and Huggins are seniors and will graduate. Lawrence is, barring some disaster, a likely first-round draft choice in the NFL Draft next fall and will also leave the program. That would have left four defensive tackles with some kind of experience. The loss of Belk ensures that Clemson will enter next spring with just three defensive tackles with any experience (Pinckney, Williams, and Jefferies) and two of those will still likely lack extensive experience.
Now defensive tackle, already a priority for this recruiting cycle, becomes even more of a priority. The coaching staff wanted DJ Dale of Pinson (AL) Clay, but he committed to in-state Alabama.
Next up on the list of most-desired tackles is Apopka (FL) Wekiva tackle Tyler Davis (a 6-1, 265-pound 3-star). Seen as a run-stuffer, Clemson offered in early March, a few days before Davis made the trek to the Clemson campus for his first visit. His stock has risen this spring upon being named an MVP at a Florida all-star game in December and then position MVP at an Opening regional last month. Ohio State is his sentimental favorite, and Florida is close. However, I’ve been told that Davis will be back on campus during the Dabo Swinney Camp in June.
Of course, the coaches landed a big piece of the puzzle Monday with the verbal commitment of Tayquon Johnson of Williamsport (MD).
Another top prospect to watch is 4-star Roxboro (NC) defensive tackle Joshua Harris. Harris has the Tigers in a group with NC State, Georgia, Tennessee, UNC, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and Penn State.
Clemson offered the Person High School prospect in February, who is rated as high as the No. 4 player in North Carolina and the No. 7 defensive tackle nationally.
Other offers that have gone out at the tackle spot at Ishmael Sopsher (LSU lean), Faatui Tuitele, Jaquaze Sorrells, and Trevis Hopper.