TigerSource Breaks Down the Starters, the Depth, the Newcomers and the Recruiting Board at Safety
Jamaal Fudge might have been the most important player on the Clemson defense last season. He was entering the season at a position he had never played and came away with a monster season. Fudge made 89 more tackles as a sophomore than he did as a freshman. The Jacksonville native led the Tigers with four interceptions and was third on the team in tackles. Fudge is terrific against the run and the pass. He had 20 tackles against Virginia and 17 against Middle Tennessee State. This is a complete strong safety that is a very hard hitter, just ask FSU's Greg Jones. The staff could never have envisioned the year he had last year. Fudge got robbed when higher profile but less talented defensive backs made the All-ACC team last season.
Travis Pugh also had an incredible season last year. His first year as the starter at free safety was a tremendous success. Like Fudge, Pugh excelled against the run and pass. He was the team's fourth leading tackler a year ago. It was several huge hits that made highlight films for the Tigers also. The Tigers improved play at both safety positions were big keys to the successful season in 2003.
Tavaghn Monts enters his senior season as a back up at safety. Monts played 90 snaps last season and could see that number go up. He enjoyed his best spring this past year and proved he is more dependable than ever. He is also a very important part of Clemson's improved special teams.
Maurice Nelson came out of high school as a highly regarded prospect. He spent last season red-shirting and adding strength. Nelson could play rover or WHIP linebacker in his Clemson career.
Roy Walker was another of the big surprises of last year's recruiting class. Walker played quarterback in high school and signed with the Tigers long after signing day. However, his move to free safety had the staff very excited. Walker has great range against the pass. His long frame helps him cover a lot of territory. This is a player the staff always speaks about when they mention the future of this defense.
Michael Hamlin was the top safety in South Carolina last season. He outshined all defensive backs at the Shrine Bowl week. Hamlin is another long, lean safety prospect that is very athletic but was more physical than some believed. We think he could red-shirt this season but has a tremendous future ahead of him in Tigertown. His signature on signing day was great news for Burton Burns and the staff that worked hard in this process.
Adrian Kindred is one of four prospects from Alabama that Dabo Swinney signed for the Tigers last year. Kindred is a physical prospect that could play safety or grow into a linebacker in his future. Clemson fans are hoping this safety turns out to be as good as the last safety the Tigers signed out of Alabama, Willie Underwood.
The Recruiting Board
Antavious Coates (6-4, 200) of Greenwood, SC is one of the top ten players in the state of South Carolina. On offense he caught 30 passes for 350 yards and a couple of touchdowns. On defense he recorded 50 tackles and three interceptions. Coates has great range but must learn to take better angles at the next level. Coates is a big hitter. When he gets stronger we think he can be a monster. His runs support is among the best in the South but we love how much ground he can cover in the passing game. This safety has a nice future. He has offers from Georgia, Clemson, South Carolina, Auburn and Vanderbilt. He camped at Clemson and Georgia and could have a decision between the Dawgs and Tigers before his senior season.
Damien Wright (6-2, 190) of Crestwood High School in Sumter, SC is another top-notch safety prospect from the Palmetto state. The speedy Wright has offers from Clemson, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. He is another prospect that could have a decision before his senior season starts.
Michael Washington (6-3, 210) of Allendale-Fairfax High School in Allendale, SC has offers from Clemson and South Carolina. He is a big safety that could grow into a linebacker in the future.
Other athletes can also end up at safety at the next level including the possibility of superstars like C.J. Byrd and Clemson commitment Rendrick Taylor.
We think the Tigers would like to sign two safeties in this class and maybe more if they are big bodies that have potential to grow into linebackers in the future.