Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney did not say Thursday if Xavier Thomas is ahead of Logan Rudolph or Rudolph is ahead of Thomas. What he did say is that the competition at defensive end, through the first six practices of fall camp, has been “awesome.”
“It is competition for all of them,” he said following Thursday’s practice behind the Allen Reeves Football Complex in Clemson. “It is not just XT and Logan, it’s (Justin) Foster, it’s K.J. (Henry), its (Justin) Mascoll, those five. Those guys can play anywhere. We are just trying to create competition between all of them.”
Swinney says all five defensive ends will play this season, as for who does start when the Tigers’ host Georgia Tech in the season opener three weeks from now does not matter.
“Whoever the two most consistent guys are,” he said. “They are all going to play because they are all good players and they have earned the right. But whoever the two most consistent are that is who we are going to go out there with first.”
Clemson’s head coach says everything counts in practice. They will evaluate them all based on how they perform on a consistent basis.
“We are really pleased where they are,” Swinney said. “That group has a lot of technical things they have to improve on. Alignments, details in steps and footwork and just angles with their eyes. Just a lot of stuff. But that group is coming. Their effort is good, and the competition is awesome. I think if we stay the course, we will be a very functional group.”
Of course, the Tigers are having to replace All-Americans Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant at defensive end. Bryant used up his eligibility and Ferrell left after his redshirt junior season.
Both went in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft this past April. Ferrell was taken No. 4 overall by the Oakland Raiders, while Austin was taken in the fourth round by the Detroit Lions.
Ferrell was a two-time First Team All-American by the Associated Press, just the second Clemson player in school history to earn such an honor. He also won the Hendricks Award last season, which is given to the nation’s best defensive end.