With the departures of interior defensive linemen Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Albert Huggins to the NFL, freshman defensive tackle Tyler Davis has a great opportunity to make a big immediate impact for Clemson this season.
Defensive tackles coach Todd Bates liked what he saw from Davis during spring practice and wants to see him take another step forward in fall camp.
“I’ve challenged him,” Bates said Tuesday at Dabo Swinney’s annual media outing at the Allen N. Reeves Football Complex. “I was like, ‘Man, you came in and you worked your butt off.’ I challenged him to make another jump between the end of camp.”
Davis enrolled at Clemson in January after signing with the Tigers during the early period last December.
Bates has been impressed by Davis’ work ethic, particularly in terms of learning the playbook.
Said Bates: “I tell you what, his mindset coming in, just the way he went to work and rolled up his sleeves and just grinded – and even the work that he put in even before getting here – we sent install sheets out, and he knew most of the plays before he even got here. So, that’s a tribute to him and the work that he put in outside of it.”
Bates hopes to see continued improvement from Davis, especially from a knowledge standpoint. He knows veterans like Nyles Pinckney and Jordan Williams can help him understand the nuances of playing the defensive tackle position, such as reading keys.
“Just understanding protection, I want to see him grow in that department, and he’s grown,” Bates said. “I’ve kept good tabs on him over the summer with the drills that we’ve done and that Nyles has led and Jordan has led, showing him the key things that they see to help them recognize. Because a big part of defensive line is the block recognition, protection recognition and things of that nature. So, he’s grown already in that, and I just want to see him take that next step.”
The Tigers have a large void to fill on the interior defensive line this season, and Bates is looking for Davis to step up and help replace the production left by Wilkins, Lawrence and Huggins.
Most of all, Bates hopes to see Davis — a unanimous four-star recruit coming out of high school and top-100 national prospect per multiple services – reach his ceiling as a Tiger.
“I just want to see him max out his potential,” Bates said. “I want to see him be the best that he can be, and I want to see him grow, whatever that role looks like for him. Be it a backup or a starter, whatever it is, whatever he earns… He understands that the best players are going to play. The whole group knows that. They know that the best players are going to play. So, I want to see him just be his best, man, and get better every week.”