Harbison says youngsters have to earn playing time

by - Senior Writer -
Secondary coach Charlie Harbison at Swinney’s media golf outing on Tuesday.

SUNSET – Marcus GilchristMarcus Gilchrist
Defensive Back
#12 5-11, 190
High Point, NC

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played nickel back, dime back, safety and cornerback last season for the Clemson Tigers.

In addition to those duties, the senior also made most of the calls in the secondary and played on special teams, meaning that Gilchrist was on the field for almost all of the defensive and special teams plays.

That won’t be the case for any of this year’s Clemson Tigers, according to secondary coach Charlie Harbison.

Harbison spoke with the media Tuesday morning at head coach Dabo Swinney’s media golf outing at The Reserve at Lake Keowee, and said his secondary is going to be a “committee” this season.

“There isn’t going to be that one guy that does everything,” Harbison said. “If something happens to him, and he goes down, then what are you going to do? You have to start over. We have some experienced players back there this season, and we have some young guys that need to step up and earn playing time and play in game situations. But they are all going to be a part. If you have one guy that plays all of the defensive snaps, and then he is out there on special teams, then that is over 100 snaps and it would be me running somebody ragged. I would be foolish to do that.”

Harbison said that Jonathan MeeksJonathan Meeks
#5 6-1, 205
Rock Hill, SC

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will likely start out at free safety, with Rashard HallRashard Hall
#31 6-2, 200
St. Augustine, FL

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at strong safety. However, he said that the two positions are almost interchangeable and both players will play each position, with Harbison asking Hall to take on more of a leadership role.

“I am going to ask Hall to do a lot more this season,” he said. “He has done what we’ve asked of him, and he has played a lot of snaps over the last two seasons. But he has a lot of room to improve, and he has become more vocal in our room. He is one of those guys that can go in and do great in the film room, and he is like an extra coach on the field. We are going to need that this season.”

Xavier BrewerXavier Brewer
Defensive Back
#29 5-11, 190
Jacksonville, FL

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and Coty SensabaughCoty Sensabaugh
Defensive Back
#15 6-0, 180
Kingsport, TN

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have the inside track at corner. Reserves figure to be Robert SmithRobert Smith
# 5-11, 195
Dorchester, SC

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[Harbison said he will leave Smith at safety], Cortez DavisCortez Davis
Defensive Back
# 6-3, 200
Daytona Beach, FL

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[will leave him at corner for now], Darius RobinsonDarius Robinson
Defensive Back
#21 5-10, 165
College Park, GA

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, Martin JenkinsMartin Jenkins
Defensive Back
#27 5-10, 170
Roswell, GA

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, Garry PetersGarry Peters
Defensive Back
#38 6-0, 185
Conyers, GA

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and Carlton LewisCarlton Lewis
#32 6-3, 215
St. Augustine, FL

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Another reserve that figures to see plenty of playing time is Bashaud BreelandBashaud Breeland
#17 6-0, 190
Allendale, SC

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, who Harbison pointed out as having a chance to be special.

"He really took off this spring,” Harbison said. “He can play corner and because of his size, he can play safety. He is one of those guys that have shown it in the spring, and now he needs to show it again this fall. And I have no doubt he will.”

With so many younger players playing important backup roles, Harbison said the early games will be crucial to their development. But…he says he can’t overlook the most important thing at the expense of playing time.

“The most important thing is winning,” he said. “We have to make sure we get that ‘W’ first, and that means the best players are going to be out on the field while the game is on the line. I can’t sit over there and worry about who is in and who hasn’t been in while the game is still in doubt. We want to win games first and foremost.”

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