Carter says working with best receivers in country has him ready

by - Correspondent -
Ryan Carter made his first start in the ACC Championship last season.
Ryan Carter made his first start in the ACC Championship last season.

Although offensive fireworks were aplenty in last season’s ACC Championship Game, in which the Clemson Tigers topped the North Carolina Tar Heels 45-37 in Charlotte, there were certain elements of the defensive play that stood out. One such element was cornerback Ryan Carter’s embrace of his starting/starring role on the big stage.

Making his first collegiate start, the redshirt sophomore held his own against a UNC receiving corps that boasted a bevy of NFL-caliber talent. After learning and developing under elite corners Mackensie Alexander and Bashaud Breeland during the early portion of his Clemson tenure, Carter proved to the coaching staff throughout the ebb and flow of the 2015 season that he, too, could make an impact in the defensive backfield. Now, with the inception of the 2016 campaign drawing near, the redshirt junior from Grayson, Georgia, is slated to serve as a veteran leader in the Tigers’ secondary.

Despite losing star defensive backs T.J. Green, Jayron Kearse and the aforementioned Alexander to the 2016 NFL Draft, the Clemson Tigers’ secondary still boasts plenty of talent. With senior DBs Jadar Johnson and Cordrea Tankersley both garnering plenty of hype during the preseason, several of the Tigers’ other talented defensive backs are flying under the radar, Carter in particular.

Speaking on Friday about the expectations that the coaching staff had for him coming into the 2016 college football campaign, Carter said, “Just to be more of a leader. Make sure that I’m that guy that can help some of the younger guys that are coming in, like K’Von (Wallace) and Isaiah (Simmons) and Trayvon (Mullen). And for me to be myself and just keep working my technique.”

With so much raw, inexperienced talent in the secondary, it should come as no surprise that the coaches would look to Carter to adopt a leadership role this year. While there are a plethora of question marks surrounding the defensive backfield, meaning that an acclimation period should be expected at the beginning of the regular season, veteran defensive backs, such as Carter, Johnson, Tankersley and redshirt junior cornerback Adrian Baker, will serve as the mortar that holds the Clemson secondary’s foundation intact.

No, Carter does not have much starting experience under his belt, and, yes, at 5-9, he is a bit undersized for a defensive back, but there is something unique and special about him. Well-spoken and exceptionally knowledgeable about his team, Carter has the allure of a coach-in-waiting. Incredibly versatile, Carter played at strong safety for a sizable portion of spring ball, which speaks volumes on his underrated skillset, as 5-9, 175-pound strong safeties at the Division I level are far from common.

According to Carter, he will play primarily at cornerback this season, though, and, considering the extraordinarily talented wide receivers whom he lines up across from each and every practice, it should come as no surprise if Carter overwhelms and turns heads right out of the gate this year.

“That’s probably the best receiving corps in the country,” Carter told the media following Friday afternoon’s practice. “And if (the Clemson defensive backs) can be consistent with those receivers and keep working at it, keep competing with them every day, then we’ll be able to guard and cover anybody in the country.”

An intelligent leader, Carter will be a valuable commodity for the Tigers this season. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in heart and tenacity. There are several question marks involving Clemson’s secondary heading into the regular season, but Ryan Carter could prove to be one of the answers.

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