If there is one area on Clemson’s football team that seems vulnerable, it is the safety positions.
The Tigers return two guys with starting experience in strong safety K’Von Wallace and free safety Tanner Muse. They are as good as any two in the ACC.
Behind them will be sophomore Nolan Turner and junior Denzel Johnson, solid backups with playing experience. After them it is anyone’s guess.
Right now, walk-ons Kyle Cote and Hall Morton are listed on Mickey Conn’s depth chart at third team. So, Clemson is an injury or two away from having to play walk-ons, with limited playing experience, in key situations.
In other words, depth is an issue at safety. However, Conn does not see it that way.
“I don’t think there’s a depth issue,” he said. “We don’t have as many as we do last year, but we’ve got plenty of capable guys to do it. We have five guys on scholarship, but then we’ve got Kyle Cote and Hall Morton, guys who walked on that can come in and finish out a game. They help us. They know the defense”
The fifth scholarship player Conn is speaking of is Isaiah Simmons, who is listed as the Tigers’ starting nickel back/strongside linebacker. Simmons, 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, played in all 14 games last year and recorded 49 tackles, a sack and five broken up passes as a reserve.
Though defensive coordinator Brent Venables wants to keep him at the nickel/SAM position because of his unique skill set, if something were to happen to Wallace or Muse then Simmons could very well fall back to safety, especially with the depth Clemson has at linebacker.
“(Wallace and Muse) showed great leadership this spring,” Conn said. “K’von and Tanner just continue to improve. Last year, was their first year really getting to start. I love that experience coming back from those two.
“We are also developing more depth with Nolan and Denzel, as well with Isaiah who is going to be playing some nickel as well as some safety.”
In the spring, because of injury to Turner, Clemson moved wide receiver Cornell Powell over to cross train at safety. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Powell did well, but he will start fall camp at wide receiver.
However, if an injury or two occurs at safety during camp or in the fall, don’t be surprised to see Powell move over to safety to help out.
Hot off the press. ‘Back with a Vengeance’ is now available for online orders. TCI takes an in-depth look at the upcoming season as the Tigers march towards another national championship. Order your copy today!