By Will Vandervort.
By William Qualkinbush
In the normal vernacular of a sports fan, attempting to replace an important player or coach can sometimes be known as “filling big shoes.” In the case of Malliciah Goodman, however, the process might more aptly be described as “filling big gloves.”
Goodman, owner of one of the largest sets of hands in college football last season, closed his Clemson career out with a bang. His stats for the season from his defensive end position were decent, but in the final four games, the 6-foot-4, 270-pound end distinguished himself by playing with a fierce mentality.
Out of 20 tackles in the entire season, Goodman made seven in the last four games. In addition, five of his seven sacks were recorded during November and December, including a pair of them in the Tigers’ thrilling bowl victory over LSU. His emergence down the stretch was a major boost to the Clemson defense, and his disruption will surely be missed in 2013.
The other starter at defensive end heading into last season was Corey Crawford. The rising junior led all ends in tackles with 34, had six tackles for loss, and returned a fumble for a touchdown. He gives the Tigers a big body at the position and represents ample playing experience given his status as a returning starter.
His co-starter coming out of camp is Tavaris Barnes, who has bounced back and forth between tackle and end throughout his career. Now with similar dimensions to Crawford (6-foot-4, 275 pounds), the emergence of a plethora of quality players inside gave the Clemson coaching staff some leeway to move the junior to the exterior of the line. Barnes had 17 tackles last season and seems to be primarily gifted as a run stopper.
Crawford’s backup last season was Vic Beasley, whose Clemson career might be described as “nomadic.” Though slight at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, he provides the elements of quickness and agility at end. Beasley found his niche last season as an edge rusher, totaling eight sacks in a mere 288 snaps—including multi-sack games against Wake Forest and N.C. State.
Those three will be the primary players responsible for picking up the production loss with Goodman’s departure, but some new faces could step in and contribute as well. Shaq Lawson appears physically ready to make an impact after a year in prep school, and second-year players Kevin Dodd and Martin Aiken have been groomed to handle a larger role.
Goodman’s hulking presence will certainly be missed on the Clemson defense this season. He was a durable player who led the defensive line in total snaps last season (622) and developed into a fourth-round draft choice. In addition, he was the kind of quiet leader teammates could look to as a calming influence in key situations.
Increased production from Crawford and Beasley should help replace Goodman over the long haul, and additional assistance from Barnes would be helpful too. The combination of talents between those players should prove capable of handling both the run and the pass. Additionally, the depth at end should be better this season with Lawson in the mix and Dodd and Aiken moving outside full-time.
The Tigers have enough quality players to feel confident about replacing Goodman this season, but it might take two or three to fit into those gigantic gloves.