Best players in Clemson history: Safety

Best players in Clemson history: Safety


Best players in Clemson history: Safety

Few defense backs in Clemson’s rich history have made the kind of impact on the program the way Terry Kinard did in his Clemson career. It has been argued that he is perhaps the greatest defensive player the Tigers have ever had.

It’s hard to go against that argument.

The Sumter, S.C., native was a two-year member of the All-ACC team. He is still the all-time Clemson leader in career interceptions with 17, a mark that tied an ACC record at the time.

“Clemson gave me the opportunity,” Kinard said. “I was very fortunate. I could not have picked a better place to go to school. I played with a lot of great players at Clemson, especially guys on our defense like Jeff Davis, Jeff Bryant and many others.

“I certainly could not have made it to the Hall of Fame without the great players we had at Clemson at that time.”

Kinard, who was the starting free safety on the Tigers’ 1981 National Championship team, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001. He played for the Tigers from 1978-’82 and was named National Defensive Player of the Year by CBS Sports after his senior year, the first national award won by a Clemson football player.

The Clemson safety was also the first Clemson player to be a unanimous All-America pick. He was the first two-time All-American as a defensive back and a First-Team Associated Press All-America two years in a row – the only Clemson player to accomplish that.

The All-American was chosen to the USA Today All-College Football Team in the 1980s and Sports Illustrated named him to College Football’s All-Centennial Team in 1999.

Kinard was honored in a ceremony at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., in August of 2002.

Coincidently, he burst on to the national scene in South Bend in 1979. Just a freshman at the time, Kinard had two fourth-quarter interceptions and seven tackles overall to lead Clemson to a 16-10 victory over the Irish on Senior Day. The College Football Hall of Fame is located just two miles from Notre Dame Stadium.

Kinard, who played at Clemson from 1979-’82, holds the all-time record for career takeaways with 19. He, along with former safety Robert O’Neal, is one of two safeties ranked on Clemson’s all-time list for passes broken up and passed defended.

Kinard holds the Clemson record for passes defend by a safety in 1982, when the free safety recorded 18. In 1981, he led the team with six interceptions and then did the same in 1982. His seven takeaways in 1982 led the team. He also led the 1982 squad with 12 passes broken up (PBUs). Kinard is ninth all-time in PBUs with 30 and is ranked third in passes defended with 47. He also ranks 10th in history with 147 interception return yards. He had 294 career tackles.

Honorable mentions:

Former Clemson safety Brian Dawkins was a second-team All-American in 1995 as he led the Tigers with six interceptions, including three in one game. (File photos)

Brian Dawkins (1992-’95): Dawkins led the Tigers with six interceptions in 1995 and had eight takeaways overall that season – second all-time for one season in Clemson history. Against Duke that year, he recorded three interceptions in one game which is tied for the most in one game in Clemson history. The strong safety also tied for the lead in passes defended that year with 15. Dawkins led the Tigers with 15 passes defended in 1993 as well. He also had three interceptions to lead the squad that year. Dawkins finished his career with 11 interceptions and his 15 career takeaways are tied for fifth all-time. He also had 226 career tackles. Dawkins was a second-team All-American in 1995.

DeAndre McDaniel (2007-’10): In 2008, McDaniel tied O’Neal’s and Miller’s record of eight interceptions in a season, which also led the Tigers in takeaways that year. His 16 takeaways in his career rank fourth all-time in Clemson history, while his 15 career interceptions are tied with Fred Knoebel for second all-time. McDaniel, a graduate assistant coach on Dabo Swinney’s staff, was also known as one of the hardest hitters to have ever played at Clemson, backed up by his 296 career tackles. He was a First-Team All-American in 2009 and a third-team All-American in 2010.

Robert O’Neal (1989-’92): In 1989, his freshman year, O’Neal set a new mark for interceptions in a season with eight. He shares that record today with Justin Miller (2002) and DeAndre McDaniel (2009). He also led Clemson in takeaways that season with nine overall, which is still a Clemson record for a season. O’Neal finished his career with 12 interceptions and joins Kinard as the only two safeties in Clemson history to rank in the top 10 in both PBUs and passes defended. He ranks second all-time in PBU’s (37) and passes defended (49). In 1991 and ’92, O’Neal led the Tigers in PBUs with 11 and nine respectively. His 13 passes defended in 1991 also led the team as did his 11 in 1992. O’Neal ranks seventh all-time with 14 career takeaways.

Robert Carswell (1997-’00): Carswell was the best tackling defensive back in Clemson history. He recorded 372 career tackles, the most by any defensive back at Clemson. He was also good at taking the ball away. He led the Tigers with six interceptions in 1999 and had seven takeaways overall that year to lead the squad. He finished his career with eight interceptions. In 2000, he was a third-team All-American for a Clemson team that earned an invitation to the Gator Bowl.


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