For all the talk about the young talent Clemson has on offense, especially at quarterback and at wide receiver, it seems as if everyone has forgotten about all the young talent it has on defense as well.
Granted, the Tigers’ are loaded with experience on defense. Nine players overall return who at least started four games in 2017. However, the Tigers also have a lot of young players who will get the opportunity to grow up this year while being mentors by veterans such as Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant.
Through the first six practices this spring, some of the young talent is starting to show, especially on the defensive line where the Tigers brought in former 5-star players Xavier Thomas and K.J. Henry.
“They are really special talents, like you would think,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Xavier and K.J. jump out at you. But there is still a lot to learn. They are processing a lot.
“The good thing for them is they have those older, veteran guys that care a lot about the position and they love to mentor. It is a very good situation, but they are doing fine.”
Redshirt sophomore Xavier Kelly is also having a good spring, as is redshirt freshman Logan Rudolph.
“Rudolph, I love that guy,” Swinney said. “He is a football player. He is one of those guys where you will look up four years from now and he is going to be a terror. Nobody is going to like going against him.”
Swinney has been really pleased with all of young defensive ends and overall says they are doing well as a group.
As for the older guys, such as Ferrell and Bryant, they are leading the way by showing the young players the way things are supposed to be done, and that has helped more than anything else. They are also seeing a veteran, like graduate student Chris Register, flying around and making plays though he is listed behind Ferrell and Bryant on the depth chart.
“That was good to see,” Swinney said. “He had two tackles for loss. It was good to see him make a couple of plays. He is not a young guy, but it was good to see him show up and flash like he did today.”