Summer breakdown: Secondary in transition this season

by - Correspondent -
K'Von Wallace is expected to compete for a starting spot
K'Von Wallace is expected to compete for a starting spot

Clemson's secondary will be in transition this season after losing starters Cordrea Tankersley and Jadar Johnson, two key components in the Tigers' championship run the last two seasons. In the third part of a series, Daniel Shirley takes a look at the secondary.

Returning starters: Ryan Carter (Gr., CB/NICK); Tanner Muse (Soph., SS); Van Smith (Jr., FS); Marcus Edmond (Gr., CB).

Other key returners: K’Von Wallace (Soph.); Trayvon Mullen (Soph.); Denzel Johnson (Soph.); Mark Fields (Jr.); Amir Trapp (Soph.).

New faces: Isaiah Simmons (R-Fr.); Brian Dawkins Jr., (R-Fr.); Nolan Turner (R-Fr.); A.J. Terrell (Fr.); LeAnthony Williams (Fr.).

The breakdown: Carter, Smith and Edmond have a lot of experience and have made some big plays, but they also have been overshadowed during their careers at times by bigger names. That has to change this season as they become the leaders of this group, which is young around them.

Carter being overlooked started before he even got to Clemson as he was considered by many a throw-in from Grayson as Clemson tried to get Robert Nkemdiche, but Carter has played well throughout his Clemson career. He had started just two games before last season, but he started 13 in 2016 and finished with 5.5 tackles for loss, seven pass breakups and an interception in 624 snaps.

Smith stepped into the starting lineup last year and started every game. He was really good at times, but he needs to be more consistent (see: O.J. Howard touchdown in the national title game when Smith tried to do too much). Smith finished third on the team with 114 tackles, and he caused problems for opposing offenses with two interceptions, two caused fumbles and two pass breakups.

And Edmond? He has grown into a solid player with gradual improvement each season. In 2016, he only started three games, but he was there when the Tigers needed him the most in some big-time situations. Edmond made two of the biggest plays of 2016 with the game-winning tackle in the closing seconds against Louisville and the game-clinching interception against N.C. State in overtime. Without those two plays, Clemson would not have played for a national title.

The coaching staff will need them to lead because there is some superstar talent surrounding them, but it is inexperienced. Wallace (109 snaps in 2016), Mullen (115 snaps), Simmons, Terrell and Williams all have the potential to be stars, but they will need to learn quickly.

Then there’s Fields. It’s hard to believe he is already a junior, but he needs to step up and take a leadership role and play consistently up to the talent he shows in flashes. He only made one start last year, and it’s time for him to live up to the billing he joined the program with as a top recruit.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Midday Sports Zone on Middle Georgia’s ESPN, 93.1 FM and 99.5 FM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at

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