Midterm Report: Defensive Line
Clemson’s defensive line entered the 2005 season with a new coach in Marion Hobby, and also without a 300-pounder starting for the first time in five years. The line did not return without experience. Charles Bennett, Gaines Adams, Trey Tate, and Cory Groover all saw significant playing time in 2004.
Senior Charles Bennett was counted upon to be a leader on defense. Bennett has not disappointed. His numbers are not mind blowing, but he has been the focus of opposing offensive lines. He only has one sack to date, a number he needs to improve on in the second half. Bennett has split time with true freshman Phillip Merling. Merling has come on strong and delivered for the Tigers. In a smaller role, Merling has posted 10 tackles and proven to be a more than capable pass rusher.
At the bandit position, Gaines Adams has been called upon to carry the load. Adams has played 60+ snaps in three games. Charles Bennett and Trey Tate combined have only played 50+ snaps in three games. Adams has 3.5 tackles for loss, including 2.5 sacks. A lack of depth has prevented Adams from being a dominating pass rusher late in the game for the Tigers. Kwam Williams or Cortney Vincent needs to elevate their play or Adams may not have much left in the tank at the end of the year.
Defensive tackle was a big concern heading into the year. Donnell Clark was the best tackle in fall camp. He is not physically dominating, but he goes full speed every play. Coach Hobby loves his effort and will continue to award him with playing time. However, the best tackle on the field has been redshirt freshman Rashaad Jackson. Jackson has made the most plays. He leads the tackles with 19 tackles, including four tackles for loss. His emergence along with the promise of Joch McKissic shows a bright future at defensive tackle for the Tigers.
Seniors Cory Groover and Trey Tate have not delivered. Groover did not show up until the first week of the season, and he is still trying to catch up. If he put as much dedication into playing as he does dancing, his numbers would improve. Tate is a guy, who plays hard but is limited by physical talent. He has a tendency to not go full speed, but what we have seen from Tate will stay the same.
This group could be where the most improvement is shown in the second half. Jackson and McKissic, along with Dorrell Scott, will begin to take over the snaps. They are the future at the position, and the future may be now.