By Heath Bradley.
For the fourth installment of the post spring breakdown of the Clemson Tigers we will focus on the defensive line. The Tigers defensive line took the biggest hit of any of the Tigers position groups by losing four players. Three of the four lost were starters, with two being drafted in the early rounds. Brent Venables looks to replace these veteran lineman in the fall with a host of talented, but young, Tigers.
Depth Chart- 1st Team: Malliciah Goodman, 2nd Team: Roderick Byers
1st Team: Corey Crawford, 2nd Team: Vic Beasley
What We Know- Malliciah Goodman definitely passes the eye test at 6 foot 4 inches and 280 pounds. In his three years in Clemson, Goodman has appeared in 41 games (15 starts) and logged 1,439 snaps at defensive end. Goodman has recorded 122 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, five sacks, and four forced fumbles in his career. In 2011, Goodman set a record for Tiger defensive lineman by playing 767 snaps in 14 games. Roderick Byers, a redshirt freshman from Rock Hill, South Carolina is expected to back up Goodman at defensive end. Across the field sophomore Corey Crawford will look to fill the void left by Andre Branch. In 13 games in 2012, Crawford recorded 29 tackles including two tackles for loss in 220 snaps. Crawford is currently backed up by redshirt sophomore Vic Beasley who has continued to improve as a pass rusher, but more importantly as a run stopper since his move to defensive end from tight end while at Clemson.
What We Expect- Goodman set the record for snaps played by a Tiger defensive lineman in 2011, and in 2012 we could potentially see Goodman break his own record. Goodman has not had the sack numbers many have expected him to have at this point in his career but he has worked hard in the off season to get his weight to a number that he and the coaches feel would help him play at his highest level. At 6 foot 4 and 280 pounds Goodman has the chance to be a pass-rushing nightmare with his mix of power and speed. With the departure of Branch, Thompson, and Moore to the NFL, Goodman is the only returning starter, so he must evolve into a vocal leader on a young defensive line. Crawford showed flashes of greatness coming off the edge in 2011 and the Tigers hope he can make an immediate impact in 2012. At 6 foot 5 and 280 pounds Crawford has excellent burst, which he can use to his advantage to speed rush around opposing offensive tackles. Vic Beasley is also an incredible athlete that could see time in obvious pass rushing situations due to his speed and quickness off the edge. As Beasley continues to improve at the line of scrimmage he will offer the coaching staff a more than adequate backup to Crawford.
Depth Chart- 1st Team: DeShawn Williams, 2nd Team: Josh Watson
What We Know- The Tigers lost starter Rennie Moore to graduation and the NFL. Moore is now a member of the Houston Texans and it will be up to two sophomores to fill the position. Currently exiting the spring, Daniel High School alum DeShawn Williams is listed as the starter at defensive tackle. Williams is the most experienced returning interior lineman for the Tigers, playing in 138 snaps in 14 games including one start. IN 2011, Williams made the most of his short time on the field recording 20 tackles and two tackles for loss. Backing up Williams is expected to be redshirt sophomore Josh Watson. Watson, entering his third season in the Tiger program, has appeared in five games in his career and has recorded two quarterback pressures.
What We Expect- DeShawn Williams has worked hard over the course of the spring to become a dominant force in the middle as well as a leader on a young defensive line. Williams seems to be cut in the same mold as former Clemson defensive tackle and current Washington Redskin and Daniel High School alum Jarvis Jenkins. His strength and quickness at the point of attack allow him to create havoc at the line of scrimmage and make plays. As he matures physically and mentally it will be interesting to see what type of player he can become. Josh Watson seems to have all the physical tools it takes to be a talented player at this level. This spring Watson seems to have really improved not only on the field but also as a student of the game. For the Tigers defensive line to have success it is important for these two players to make an immediate impact.
Depth Chart- 1st Team: Grady Jarrett, 2nd Team: Tavaris Barnes
What We Know- The Tigers have lost a great player in Brandon Thompson. Thompson was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Exiting spring practice sophomore Grady Jarrett is listed as the starter at nose guard. In limited action in nine games in 2011, Jarrett recorded two tackles. At only 6 foot and 295 pounds Jarrett does not have the prototypical height you would like to see in a defensive lineman but uses his strength and speed to his advantage. At 2nd Team nose guard currently is Tavaris Barnes, a redshirt sophomore from Jacksonville, Florida. In 2011 Barnes appeared in nine games for the Tigers and played in 73 snaps. In his 73 snaps Barnes recorded seven tackles and three quarterback pressures.
What We Expect- Both Jarrett and Barnes worked hard on their games during the spring of 2012. This is a position that the staff at TheClemsonInsider.com could see evolving into a battle in fall camp before a starter is named for game one. Barnes had a very good spring while still learning to become a successful interior defensive lineman at the collegiate level. While playing defensive end and tackle in high school Barnes is making the transition to playing inside at Clemson, which included gaining weight. He has been able to keep his strength and speed while still gaining weight, a valuable asset for an interior defensive lineman. Jarrett also had a very good spring, concluding it with his best performance as a Tiger in the spring game. Albeit a split squad scrimmage, Jarrett wreaked havoc, recording six tackles and two sacks. Unless one player moves way ahead of the other in fall camp, expect this position to potentially use a rotation in which player would get a certain number of snaps per game early in the season until a starter emerges.