Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables says there is a big difference between this year’s defense, which is replacing eight starters from the national championship team and the 2015 team which did the same from a unit that led the nation in total defense in 2014.
What is the difference?
“We don’t have as much experience back (this year),” Venables said following Wednesday’s practice. “We had a lot of experience back (in ‘15). They just were not starters.”
Besides losing guys like Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant and Dexter Lawrence on the defensive line, the Tigers also lost reserve defensive tackle Albert Huggins and reserve defensive end Chris Register to graduation.
In the secondary they lost starter Trayvon Mullen at cornerback and reserve corner Mark Fields.
Venables also mentioned former defensive tackle Sterling Johnson, who transferred last year, would have been competing for playing time this year.
He also mentioned Josh Belk, who transferred to South Carolina last year and has since given up football.
“We had a couple of two deep guys that would have been coming back. Then of course you have Nyles (Pinckney) and Jordan (Williams),” Venables said. “That’s four backups that are not here.”
Pinckney and Williams are out this spring because of injuries. They are expected to return to practice this summer when fall camp starts.
“That is how you are peeling it all the way back to the core. Everyone is gone, except for Xavier (Thomas).”
On the defensive line, everyone with experience is gone except Thomas, but at linebacker the Tigers bring back a lot of experience. The same can be said for the secondary as well.
Though the Tigers’ secondary is deep, it has been banged up so far this spring. Kyler McMichael is out with a hamstring injury. Mario Goodrich was banged up in practice on Monday and on Wednesday freshman Joseph Charleston was injured.
Clemson will continue spring drills on Friday inside the Poe Indoor Practice Facility in Clemson.
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