Going into 2016, Clemson lost two big, hard-hitting safeties in Jayron Kearse and T.J. Green. Though there might have been questions early, the Tigers did not miss a beat with Jadar Johnson and Van Smith. You can even say they were better.
Now, as the team prepares for the 2017 season, they have to find another replacement for the now graduated Johnson.
Several names were thrown in the hat with K’von Wallace and Ryan Carter getting snaps during the season, and big 6-foot-3, 220-pound redshirt freshman Isaiah Simmons getting a lot of hype, but so far Tanner Muse looks to be the man at free safety.
The redshirt sophomore has beefed up and learned a lot during his time at Clemson and notched some valuable minutes under his belt last season.
He recorded his first interception last year against Syracuse, returning it 64 yards to the house, making him the first Clemson freshman to earn a “pick-six” since Wayne Simmons did the same in 1989 against Florida State.
During his tenure with the Tigers, Muse has learned how to work hard from former linebacker Ben Boulware.
“Ben Boulware, I have to give credit to him,” said Muse. “He taught me how to work and just how to study the game.”
That work ethic has been used to impress new safeties coach Mickey Conn. Muse has enjoyed the time he has had with Conn so far and he is pushing him to become a an even better safety.
“He’s a lot of fun, I’m a big fan of Coach Conn,” he said. “He’s been very vocal…it’s good having him in my ear and teaching me a couple things. He’ll kill me on the grades. Every practice we get grades back and he’ll get on me.”
Conn has helped give the secondary an extra push to make Clemson nationally known for its defensive backs.
“When I say we as a group, the defensive backs, mainly the safeties now since we’re with him, we just want to be that top unit,” he said. “We’re ready to take that step and be nationally known.”
In order to stake a claim as a top unit, Muse is trying to improve his game in several areas going into the coming season.
“Just my footwork and knowledge of the defense,” said Muse. “I have a good understanding now that I’ve been in the program for a couple of years now.”
While Tiger fans won’t be able to see how much Muse has improved until the season opener against Kent State, one thing is for sure; he has the build and athleticism to hang with big opponents.
“My physicality…I feel like I can line up with the tight ends a lot better than some of the other guys can that are smaller,” he said.