By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
The week of the South Carolina game, the Clemson coaching staff got some great news when defensive tackle Grady Jarrett announced he was not even going to feel out the paper work for the NFL Draft Advisory Board because he had already decided he was going to return to Clemson for his senior year.
Jarrett’s announcement was every bit as big as Vic Beasley’s, and it quite possibly affected Beasley’s decision to return to Clemson for his final year as well.
“I just wanted to get it out of the way so it was not a distraction for me or anyone else,” Jarrett said prior to the Tigers’ Orange Bowl victory over Ohio State. “Everyone makes their decision based on what is going on in their own lives and, hopefully whatever decision they make, it is in their best interest.
“I felt it was in my best interest to come back for one more year. I can’t speak for Vic or anybody else. They have to do what is in the best interest of themselves and their families’.”
Jarrett’s decision to come back directly affected Clemson’s defensive tackles. With himself and fellow seniors Josh Watson and DeShawn Williams returning for their senior years, the Tigers are loaded in the middle with talent and experience.
Let’s not forget junior D.J. Reader and sophomore Carlos Watkins either, both guys have a lot of experience and both are extremely talented and more than likely would be starting at other schools.
Here is the list of Clemson’s defensive tackles that will be competing in the spring for playing time.
Grady Jarrett, 6-1, 295, Sr. – Jarrett is the most overlooked guy in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He consistently takes on double teams and wins. He caused nothing put issues for Ohio State center Corey Linsley in the Orange Bowl. The All-Big Ten center had no answer for Jarrett who blew up the middle to record six tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack. Despite playing defensive tackle, Jarrett led all Clemson defensive linemen with 83 tackles—third overall on the team—while registering 11 tackles for loss, two sacks and 14 quarterback pressures.
D.J. Reader, 6-2, 325, Jr. – Reader has a shot to be the best defensive tackle Clemson has had since the Perry brothers of the 1980s. Like William and Michael Dean Perry, he is extremely athletic and has great speed getting off the ball. Though he played mostly as a reserve—started three games in 2013—Reader finished the year with 43 tackles, including five tackles for loss and three sacks. He also had eight quarterback pressures. Five times this past season he recorded five or more tackles in a game, including a career-high six against South Carolina.
Josh Watson, 6-4, 290, Sr. – Watson shared some of his time as a starter with both Reader and Williams, but he quietly had a good season. He finished the year with 47 tackles, including two tackles for loss and a sack. He also had five quarterback pressures and blocked an extra point in the Orange Bowl. His best games this year came against big-time competition in Georgia, Florida State and Ohio State. Before the Orange Bowl, Watson decided he was coming back to Clemson for his final season despite the fact he already graduated. Earlier in the year Watson had announced his plans to leave Clemson after the 2013 season.
DeShawn Williams, 6-1, 295, Sr. – Williams started four games and played in 12 overall. He recorded 37 tackles in 2013 and had eight quarterback pressures and two passes broken up. His best game came against Georgia Tech when he registered five tackles in only 26 snaps. Williams has played in 39 games in his career and has 10 starts, while taking 841 snaps. He has 106 career tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
Carlos Watkins, 6-3, 295, So. – Clemson is going to try and get a medical redshirt for Watkins after suffering season-ending injuries from a car accident the weekend after the Tigers’ victory at NC State on Sept. 19. Before the accident, Watkins was off to a good start. In the four games he played in, he already had 11 tackles, including one tackle for loss. His best game came at NC State when he totaled four tackles in only 22 snaps. By the end of the year, Watkins appeared completely healed from the wounds suffered in the accident. He will be expected to challenge those in front of him for playing time this spring.
Scott Pagano, 6-4, 280, Fr. – Pagano had a really good fall camp and if it was not for the depth on the defensive line, he would have played in 2013. But it worked out good for Pagano and the Tigers that he was able to learn Brent Venables’ defense, plus getting a full year under position coach Dan Brooks without having to burn a redshirt should be invaluable to Pagano’s progression. An All-American coming out of high school, Pagano is another talented player that gives Clemson as much quality depth as any team in the country when it comes to its defensive tackles.
Roderick Byers, 6-3, 290, Jr. – Played in six games as a reserve defensive tackle. He recorded 19 tackles, including eight against The Citadel. He only played 26 snaps that afternoon. Overall, Byers has played in 11 games in his career and has 24 tackles in 173 snaps. Byers is expected to push for more playing time in the spring.