With guys like Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Clelin Ferrell returning on the defensive line, everyone knows what to expect from Clemson’s defensive line.
At linebacker, head coach Dabo Swinney has been saying it’s the best group of linebackers he has had since he has been the Tigers’ head coach. Even defensive coordinator Brent Venables has been positive about his position group.
As for the secondary, it’s been more of a wait and see approach. Swinney changed things up on his coaching staff, splitting the cornerbacks and the safeties between coaches Mike Reed and Mickey Conn. Reed is coaching the corners, while Conn is now working the safeties.
There are also a lot of young players who the Tigers are expecting to step up and fill some holes, guys such as Trayvon Mullen and K’Von Wallace at corner, while Isaiah Simmons and Tanner Muse step in at safety.
There also are freshmen LeAnthony Williams and A.J. Terrell at cornerback that are making some noise in camp and of course there is the veteran leadership of Van Smith, Marcus Edmond, Mark Fields and Ryan Carter.
“We just have to come out there and prove ourselves,” Smith said. “That is every year for us so once we come out there and prove ourselves, we will be alright.”
Smith said he has been impressed with what he has seen from the younger players and says everybody is playing fast.
“Everybody is playing smart and playing fast. Everybody is paying attention to details,” he said. “Once you do that you just play fast and have fun out there.”
Smith said he is just paying attention to the little details, play recognition and is trying to be a better leader for the young guys.
“That is a big key, just being a leader for the young guys,” he said.
This year Smith moved back to his natural position of free safety, after playing strong safety last season. He says the transition has been an easy one with a just a few different concepts than what they were doing in 2015 when he played the position.
“I can play a lot of man coverage because we are an aggressive defense so we can play a lot of man coverage and long range so I can play a little bit,” Smith said.
The junior has also lost 10 pounds so he is more equipped for the free safety position.
“I feel a big difference. I feel faster, loose and I’m not as stiff, so everything is like fluid,” Smith said.
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