The sample size is small, but so far, so good for Kyler McMichael and Mario Goodrich.
According to Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, the true freshmen cornerbacks have already flashed big potential through the first four practices of fall camp.
“I think both corners have come in and done well,” Venables said following Tuesday’s practice. “They’ve had their moments when they’ve flashed and shown the ability to run and to be physical and have some ball skills, good awareness and good understanding for what we want them to do.”
Both McMichael and Goodrich were regarded as top-10 cornerbacks and top-100 overall prospects in the 2018 recruiting class by at least one major recruiting service.
McMichael (6-1, 196) also played running back at Greater Atlanta Christian School, where his dynamic talent was on full display. The U.S. Army All-American had a total of close to 3,000 yards rushing in his final two seasons and ran for 42 touchdowns in that span.
On Monday, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney touted McMichael as one of the fastest players he’s had, and Venables agreed about the freshman’s explosiveness.
“Transitionally he’s very explosive,” Venables said. “Terrific top-end speed. He’s confident in his positioning, so he’s a patient player, which can be a great thing. It can hurt you, too, because the guys you’re going against — top to bottom — most of them are really fast.
“But he’s done well and he has showed that athletic ability that we thought he had.”
Like McMichael, Goodrich (6-2, 199) was a two-way player in high school. The Kansas City, Mo., native doubled as a wide receiver at Lee’s Summit West High School, recording 38 receptions for 641 yards and nine touchdowns in his career.
Goodrich showed off his ball skills on Monday when he made perhaps the best play of camp to this point — a leaping, one-handed catch for an interception.
“He went up for it like a rebound, put-back,” Venables said. “So, it was pretty impressive.”
Goodrich and McMichael join senior Mark Fields, junior Trayvon Mullen, sophomore A.J. Terrell, redshirt sophomore Brian Dawkins Jr. and redshirt freshman LeAnthony Williams in Clemson’s cornerback corps.
While Venables is excited about what he’s seen from the pair of true freshmen, he still doesn’t feel much better about the depth at the position.
“If you got an injury, if somebody pulled a hammy all of a sudden, you’re back to issues,” Venables said. “So, we’ll see as we start tackling and competing here in a couple weeks and see how guys are able to sustain where they’re at and continue to improve.”
On the bright side, Venables said the lack of depth has allowed McMichael and Goodrich to get a lot of reps in practice.
“We’ve got two pass scales going, so when you have two pass scales going on at the same time, that’s a lot of people getting a lot of reps, and it’s not easy to do,” Venables said.
“They’ve done really well with instincts and ball skills and toughness and know-how,” he added of the freshmen. “They’re very natural tracking the football and tackling and that kind of stuff… So far, it’s been so good.”
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