At the moment, everything seems okay on Clemson’s defensive front. The Tigers return three first-team All-Americans in Christian Wilkins at defensive tackle and Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell at defensive end. Then there is Dexter Lawrence at nose tackle.
Right now, Clemson arguably has the best defensive line in the country.
Even Clemson’s backups could start just about anywhere in the country. Richard Yeargin and Chris Register are fifth-year seniors that bring a lot of knowledge and experience at defensive end, while Xavier Kelly, Justin Foster, Logan Rudolph, Xavier Thomas and K.J. Henry are the future.
On the inside, Albert Huggins provides some experienced depth as a senior while Nyles Pinckney begins his third season after getting some valuable experience as a redshirt freshman last year. Then there is redshirt freshman Jordan Williams and freshman Darnell Jefferies, who carry the future.
The depth on this year’s team seems to be in great shape up front. However, when looking at the next couple of seasons, especially in the middle of the defensive front, the Tigers will have a drop off in depth and experience.
This is where news of Josh Belk’s transfer on Wednesday becomes a concern. Clemson had already lost redshirt junior Sterling Johnson to transfer in January. So that is two players, who could have played in 2019, that are no longer on the roster.
When the 2018 season is complete, Wilkins will have exhausted his eligibility and Lawrence is likely to leave a year early for the NFL Draft. Huggins, like Wilkins, will have exhausted his eligibility as well.
That leaves Clemson with Pinckney, Williams and Jefferies. That is it at defensive tackle. Right now, other than those three, there are no other scholarship players set to return at defensive tackle on the roster for 2019.
The Clemson coaches were already planning to sign a good many defensive linemen this year, including at least four in the interior. However, with Belk’s sudden departure, the need becomes even greater.
Clemson has offered a good many defensive linemen already and several of those are defensive tackles, while a couple can play defensive end or defensive tackle for the Tigers.
This past Monday, Williamsport (Md.) three-star defensive tackle Tayquon Johnson announced his commitment to the Tigers. Johnson (6-2, 290) chose Clemson over offers from Alabama, Penn State, Georgia, Texas A&M, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, Rutgers and Temple.
Right now, Johnson is the only defensive tackle to commit to the Tigers. To name a couple, Clemson is also targeting 4-star defensive tackle Tyler Davis (6-1, 293) from Apopka, Fla., and four star defensive tackle Joshua Harris (6-2, 316) from Roxboro, N.C.