The spring is a chance for young players to show what they have, and that’s the case for a lot of young guys on defense this spring as Clemson continues spring practice Monday behind the Allen Reeves Football Complex in Clemson.
With Christian Wilkins making a move back outside, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables says redshirt freshman Xavier Kelly will have an opportunity to show his skills at defensive end.
Kelly is a four-star prospect out of Wichita, Kan., who was redshirted last year after a moped accident set him back during fall camp. The U.S. Army All-American had 72 tackles, including 12 tackles for loss his senior year while playing in just nine games.
“He is going to have his chance,” Venables said. “It is important that he takes a step forward then going into the summer and then fall camp. Christian will be both inside and outside still, but when he does go inside, there are opportunities for guys like Xavier and Richard Yeargin to come out and establish himself, Austin Bryant … I’m anxious to watch those guys battle it out here this spring, Chris Register as well, and those young guys coming in this summer.”
Bryant more than likely will be the first-team guy opposite Clelin Ferrell at the other defensive end position. However, the Clemson coaches expect Kelly to push for some playing time, which is what he was doing prior to the accident.
Freshman linebackers look solid. Venables, who coaches the linebackers, has been impressed with freshman Baylon Spector, and says he has been playing at Clemson’s strong side backer position. Fellow freshman linebacker Logan Rudolph has also looked good so far.
“Baylon has done well. He gets football,” Venables said. “He was able to lineup both yesterday and today. So is Logan Rudolph. They are smart guys. They have worked really hard to at least get lined up, and their technique and their understanding of the position are remarkably pretty good. Neither one of them had been linebackers, but they are both athletic and know how to use their hands. They are tough guys, smart and are not really overwhelmed to get lined up out there. They are physical. They are both strong guys too.”
Venables feels Rudolph is a guy that will get after the quarterback.
“I have not put his hand in the dirt yet and let him go after the quarterback, but coming in I think that is something he has a real knack for,” Venables said. “Lucky for him, we like to blitz our linebackers so he is a fast twitch, sudden, violent hands guys that plays fast with his feet, hands and eyes. He is going to have a chance to get after the quarterback and get back in the backfield. I think it is second nature to him.”
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