|Tuesday, August 9, 2016, 9:26 AM- -|
We had a chance to watch practice three times in the past week, and I wanted to share a few of my observations. Today I will give a few thoughts on the defense.
Few schools can lose players like Vic Beasley, Tavaris Barnes, and Corey Crawford one year and recover the next, but Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd didn't miss a beat. That is called recruiting. Can the Tigers do it two years in a row? My guess is yes.
Austin Bryant looked very comfortable late last season when Lawson went down in the Orange Bowl in the route against Oklahoma. He looks poised to be the next in line of great defensive ends at Clemson. But in Tuesday's practice when the players were stretching it was hard to tell the difference between Bryant and red-shirt freshman Clelin Ferrell and true freshman Xavier Kelly. All three look a little taller and a little thicker than Lawson.
This is the best looking group on this team. Some can make a case for the wide outs, quarterbacks or offensive linemen, but this group has at least five future NFL draft picks and two potential top ten picks.
Carlos Watkins has been picked by some as a first-team All-American and a potential first round draft pick, but the Tigers have two players with higher ceilings in Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence. These two five-star defensive tackles are simply as good as I have ever seen at this position.Practice Observations-Defense
B.J. Goodson will be missed, but I was impressed by this group in the two practices I saw. Ben Boulware has trimmed down and moves better. I have been a Kendall Joseph fan since I first saw him play as a sophomore in high school.
There is little doubt that the secondary yields the most question marks, but some of those were eased in the first week when Trayvon Mullen stepped on the field. He is a rare talent in that he is 6-2 and moves well enough to compete at corner. Mullen never looked overwhelmed at the moment. I think we are talking about the next great corner at Clemson. He has great length but also has the speed to compete.
Mark Fields lost ten pounds but still looks physical at the point of attack. Marcus Edmonds was slowed with a hamstring injury and may be losing ground to the younger corners.
On the other side, Cordrea Tankersley is as physical as ever and looks like he picked up where he left off last season.
At safety, Jadar Johnson bulked up a few pounds. Tanner Muse excels against the run but may need some help in the passing game as a red-shirt freshman. I was encouraged by Kvon Wallace and his athleticism in the first time I have seen him at this level.
In summary, I came into the sessions feeling great about the defensive tackles and nothing changed that. I came away more encouraged at defensive end after seeing Ferrell and Kelly. The linebackers lack experience but look impressive. And I am encouraged by Tankersley, Mullen and Fields at corner, but still worried about overall depth and experience in the secondary.
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