Dawkins, McDaniel two of the best Clemson has had
In this series we will pick the best players from Clemson’s Modern Era (1990-present). This is the era following the Tigers’ great teams of the Danny Ford and Charlie Pell era. Some of the players on this list might be considered among Clemson’s all-time greats and you are sure to recognize a few if not all of the names on our list.
We continue our series today by looking at the safeties on Clemson’s All-Modern Era Team. This list is comprised of four players who earned All-American honors at Clemson.
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Brian Dawkins (1992-’95): Not only is Brian Dawkins the best safety to have ever played at Clemson in the modern era, but he is perhaps the greatest former Tiger to play in the NFL. He played strong safety for 16 seasons in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Denver Broncos and more than likely will be the first former Clemson player to be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But this list is about what players did at Clemson in the modern era and no one was better at the safety positions than Brian Dawkins, who played in 46 games and started 35. He totaled 251 tackles, nine tackles for loss, had 11 interceptions, forced four fumbles, recovered four fumbles and blocked three kicks. He was named to the All-ACC Football Teams three times in his career, including first-team honors in 1995. Dawkins led a Clemson secondary that recorded 22 interceptions in 1995. He recorded a team-high six interceptions that season, including three against Duke. He also had a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Tigers win over North Carolina. At the end of the season, he earned Second-Team All-American honors. He was third on the team in tackles in 1995 with 89, including four tackles for loss and two sacks. He also busted up a team-best nine passes.
DeAndre McDaniel (2007-’10): McDaniel earned second-team All-American honors in 2010 after charging a Clemson defense that was one of the best in the ACC. That year opponents averaged just 320.3 yards and 18.8 points per game. McDaniel had a team-high four interceptions and totaled 84 tackles. In 2009, McDaniel was a First-Team All-American has he led the Tigers to the ACC Championship Game. The Tigers clinched the ACC Atlantic Division Championship with a 40-24 victory over Florida State. McDaniel sealed the victory with a 27-interception return late in the fourth quarter, while also knocking out FSU quarterback Christian Ponder, who tied to tackle McDaniel, for the rest of the season. McDaniel led a Clemson defense that held opponents to 314.3 yards in 2009, while tying a school-record with eight interceptions in one season. The Tigers recorded 21 interceptions overall that year, the most by a Clemson secondary since 1995. McDaniel also had 102 tackles, five tackles behind the line of scrimmage, two sacks and one interception returned for a touchdown. He finished his career with two First-Team All-ACC honors. He had 296 career tackles, had 15 interceptions—second only to Terry Kinard—and forced three fumbles.
Robert Carswell (1997-2000): No safety in Clemson history has had more tackles than Robert Carswell. The free safety totaled 374 tackles in his career, including eight tackles from behind the line of scrimmage. He also recorded eight interceptions, broke up 15 passes and caused two fumbles. His best season came in 2000, when helped the Tigers to an 8-0 record to open the season, where they peaked at No. 3 in the country. That year, he had two interceptions and recorded 92 tackles on his way to being named a Third-Team All-American. In 1999, he had 129 tackles, while leading the team with six interceptions. Carswell earned All-ACC First-Team honors in 1999 and 2000.
Antwan Edwards (1995-’98): Antwan Edwards is best remembered for his two long interception returns, including one for a touchdown in the Tigers’ 47-21 victory over rival South Carolina in 1997, but he did more than that. The free safety / cornerback had an All-American season in 1998 when recorded 43 tackles and broke up 14 passes to go along with two interceptions. A two-time All-ACC honoree, Edwards was one of the more versatile defensive backs Clemson has ever had. He totaled 219 tackles in his career, had eight interceptions, broke up 35 passes and also returned punts and kickoffs. In 1997, he totaled 52 tackles and four interceptions, while playing corner and safety. He also had a team-high 15 passes broken up.
Robert O’Neal (1989-’92): O’Neal was a three-time All-ACC performer (First Team in 1989 and 1991) while playing safety and linebacker for the Tigers. As a true freshman in 1989, he set a Clemson record with eight interceptions, including one he returned for 55 yards. He was also a part of two of the best Clemson defenses in the history of the program. In 1990, the Tigers led the nation in total defense at 219.2 yards per game, while the secondary allowed just 148.5 yards per game, the fewest allowed in the modern era. In 1991, the Tigers allowed just 272.6 yards per game and the secondary gave up just 211.5. O’Neal had 59 tackles that year and 11 passes broken up to go with two interceptions. In 1992, he totaled two more interceptions and had nine more PBUs to go with 80 tackles.
Michael Hamlin (2005-’08): Hamlin was a first-team All-ACC selection in 2008, while earning second-team honors in 2007. He recorded 327 tackles in his career, including 12 tackles for loss and 22 PBUs. He also had 14 career interceptions. In 2007, he was second on the team with 97 tackles, while tying for the team-lead with four interceptions. He followed that with six more interceptions—a team-high—in 2008 and again was second on the team with 110 tackles. He also led the team with 10 passes defended.