Since 2014, few teams around the country have been as good at defensive end than Clemson.
The Tigers have had seven defensive ends that were drafted by NFL teams, four of which were selected in the first-round—Vic Beasley, Shaq Lawson, Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins—and one in the second round (Kevin Dodd). All seven players earned All-ACC honors and five made at list one First-Team All-American honor.
However, for the first time since the start of the 2014 season, Clemson does not have a legitimate starter at one of its defensive end positions. Right now, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables and head coach Dabo Swinney have said they have five co-starters at defensive end.
“They are all … they are all just doing somethings really well and they are all doing other things not so well,” Swinney said after Monday’s practice. “I do like the group. It is a really good group. Right now, our strength is in numbers, but nobody is just taken it and said, ‘I’m the guy!’”
The five guys Swinney and Venables are referring to are Xavier Thomas, Logan Rudolph, Justin Foster, K.J. Henry and Justin Mascoll.
“They are young. That is just where we are,” Swinney said. “We have a lot to do and some of it may go to games. I would say right now that all five of those guys will play. There is no doubt all five of those guys will play on game day, and it may take the games before we kind of really see some separation.”
Coming off its first scrimmage, Swinney nor the coaching staff was pleased with what they saw from the defense as a whole when it watched the film Saturday night. Some of that came from the defensive line, especially at defensive end.
“There are just too many mistakes. We are just not complete,” the Tigers’ head coach said. “This guy does pass rushing good, but he does not play well on first down. We need complete players. We are not a complete package there right now.
“Again, I like the guys and like what we got, but we have to get better. It is the same thing on the inside. We are not anywhere near where we need to be in order to be a good championship caliber team with that front right now.”
Top-ranked Clemson will continue camp Tuesday morning with a situational scrimmage. It will have its last stadium scrimmage on Thursday.
The Tigers open the 2019 season on Aug. 29 at home against Georgia Tech.