Xavier Kelly moves inside to defensive tackle
With Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant returning for one more season, plus the return of Richard Yeargin, Chris Register, Xavier Kelly and Justin Foster, Clemson was already in a good spot at defensive end. Then the Tigers went and added Xavier Thomas, the nation’s No. 3 overall player, and K.J. Henry, the nation’s No. 5 overall player, as well as Justin Mascoll, a former 4-star talent.
After lacking depth the last two years at defensive end, all of sudden the Tigers have an abundance of riches there, which has the coaching staff trying to figure out how they can use them all. One idea is to move Kelly to defensive tackle, which the Tigers have done in fall camp.
Dabo Swinney said they had to figure out a way to get the former 4-star on the field because he is having too good of a camp to leave on the sideline, plus they need another body they can cross train at defensive tackle.
“He is 270 pounds and he is as strong as on ox,” the head coach said. “He has done a really good job. I am very encouraged by working him in there. We are just trying to utilize our bodies the best possible way.”
Swinney is hopeful moving Kelly (6-4, 270) to a three technique can help him get on the field more and become a bigger role player for the Clemson defense this season.
“He has been battling numbers at his position,” Swinney said. “He was probably the least happiest that Clelin and Austin came back. But, it is what it is.
“I am not going to move Clelin or Austin to three-technique. They could do it. If you look at all of those guys I have at end, and if you are really trying to balance and utilize your talent the best, I am not going to move them. Austin could do it. Clelin could do it. Those would be some bad jokers right there. They are football players. They can play nose (tackle). They can play anywhere. Those suckers are ballers, but none of the rest guys can do that right now. Xavier is the only guy, so let’s just see.”
The Clemson coach said moving Kelly inside is the best way to cure all of their problems. He is getting on the field more and the coaches are utilizing their personnel the best way they can.
“So far, I think he has done a really good job,” Swinney said. “A lot of times, the way we play football, that three technique becomes a five because we are in and out of multiple fronts. We do a lot of pressures and we do a lot of twist. So, there is good carry over for him, but I think he has been able to play a little bit faster in there.
“So, it has been good. It is something that we are trying. It does not mean he is going to be there for life. We are focused on this year and we will go from there.”