This time last year, Clemson was concerned about its lack of depth, in particular experienced depth, at defensive end. Fast forward a year later, and now the Tigers are as deep as they have been in quite some time there.
Of course it helps All-Americans Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant decided to return to Clemson for one last season in the Orange and White. The Tigers also get back the services of Richard Yeargin, who missed all of last season with a neck injury, as well as Chris Register, who played in all 14 games this past season.
Then there are youngsters like Xavier Kelly and Justin Foster who got valuable playing experience in 2017 as reserve players, while high school All-American Xavier Thomas is also expected to contribute in his first year in the program. Then there is Logan Rudolph, who played in two of the Tigers’ first three games last year before reinjuring his shoulder in practice, which required season-ending surgery.
Rudolph told The Clemson Insider prior to the Sugar Bowl that his rehab has gone well and he is supposed to be released in February to begin full workouts.
“I should be feeling really good before spring ball, and I’ll be able to go through it,” he said.
Clemson defensive line coach Todd Bates can’t wait to see Rudolph back on the field again. He said the freshman was very impressive in the way he handled his injury and how he approached his rehab.
“I think that is where Logan is going to excel. He is a hard worker,” Bates said prior to the Sugar Bowl. “He cares about it. He is already back in the weight room working out as well. I see him every day when I’m going to practice. He is finishing up and getting workouts in and then he comes to practice as well.
“He is able to get mental reps. He is able to work out and just get prepared.”
Though Rudolph can play linebacker, he feels he can better serve the Tigers at defensive end. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound freshman moved to defensive end following Yeargin’s car accident last June. He exceled at the position in the summer and earned a spot as a reserve, playing in two games while recording three tackles and tackle for loss in 26 snaps.
“Logan is a versatile player,” Bates said. “He can definitely be a defensive end or linebacker. He is a versatile player. He has a lot of upside to him. He has a motor like no other. He goes really hard every day.
“He has a learning curve of learning the defensive line playbook. However, he knows the linebackers so he is going to be better off than a lot of guys because he will know how to hold pitch and fits together at D-line and linebacker. I think, once you understand the game like that, you are not running into someone else’s gap because you know on those blitzes where those linebackers are coming from.”
Rudolph enrolled at Clemson in January of 2017 and spent all of spring practice at linebacker. However this spring, look for Rudolph to be back at defensive end.
“I think D-end is a better option for me,” he said. “That’s where Coach V (Brent Venables) wants me to play, and I think it’s more natural for me.”