When it was announced that freshman Mario Goodrich was held out of last Saturday’s scrimmage with a groin injury, concern for Clemson’s lack of depth at the cornerback and safety positions picked back up.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said they are an injury or two away from being in trouble when it comes to depth, something he has expressed concern about since the spring and it has now carried over into fall camp. The Tigers know they are going to need Goodrich, as well as fellow freshman Kyler McMichael, ready to play when the season opens against Furman at Death Valley on Sept. 1.
However, Dabo Swinney isn’t as nervous about all of that as Venables is. That is not surprising considering Swinney has always been a glass-half-full-kind-of-guy.
“I like our guys. I think we have good depth at corner,” the head coach said. “You can say that at any position. You go and get two or three injuries – you can get thin real quick. I like the guys we have.”
Luckily for Clemson, Goodrich was not too injured. He was back doing individual drills earlier this week and he should be cleared soon for full contact. With Goodrich back, the Tigers have seven players at the two cornerback positions.
Trayvon Mullen is the starter on the boundary, while A.J. Terrell and Mark Fields are the co-starters on the field side.
“Those first three, that is where we are pretty elite at,” Swinney said.
After Mullen, Terrell and Fields, the experience level drops significantly. LeAnthony Williams is a redshirt freshman, Brian Dawkins, Jr. is a redshirt sophomore with some experience and then there is Goodrich and McMichael. Though they are very talented and were highly recruited out of high school, they are still true freshmen and they still have a lot to learn, especially in Venables’ system.
However, Swinney says the Tigers are in a better spot than they were back in the spring.
“We have seven guys that can go out there and perform for you, so I think we are in a good spot,” he said. “We are kind of learning with LeAnthony, Kyler and Mario, but are very talented guys, but they just do not have the experience as those other three guys.”
Still, Swinney likes what he has at cornerback. He also likes the fact Denzel Johnson and Nolan Turner have come along at safety. It gives Clemson more flexibility with safety K’Von Wallace, who has already cross trained at the cornerback position from the two previous seasons.
“I like the group that we have,” Swinney said. “I like what we have at safety. We can always take K’Von and have him play corner if we needed him to. I think we are starting to build a little bit of depth there.”