Though his Clemson career has come to an end, former safety K’Von Wallace is pretty confident on where the Tigers will end up in 2020.
“This is a program that never quits,” he said. “We will be back in this position next year. Mark my words we will learn from this.”
That position of course is the College Football Playoff National Championship, a spot the Tigers have been in four times in the last five years. Clemson has won two national championships, as well and has made the CFP five straight seasons.
Can the Tigers make that a CFP record sixth straight year?
To do it, Clemson will have to figure out a way to replace Wallace, as well as fellow safeties Tanner Muse and Denzel Johnson. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables will also have to find a replacement for cornerback A.J. Terrell.
In other words, the Clemson secondary has to replace four of its top six players from the 2019 season.
Last year, thanks to an experienced group, the Clemson secondary was one of the best in the country. The Tigers ranked fourth nationally in passing defense (172.3 yds/game), second in passing efficiency defense (105.4), third in interceptions (19), sixth in yards per attempt (6.0) and 10th in touchdown passes allowed (14).
Replacing Wallace, Muse and Terrell—three players that started the last two seasons in the secondary—will be Clemson’s biggest challenge in spring practice, which begins Feb. 26 behind the Allen Reeves Football Complex in Clemson. Derion Kendrick, who excelled as a starting corner after being moved from wide receiver last spring, is the lone returning starter in the secondary.
In his first year as a starter, Kendrick finished seventh on the team with 51 tackles. He had three tackles for loss, 10 passes broken up and had two interceptions. The coaches believe Kendrick is a future star in the ACC and he is nowhere near reaching his ceiling.
Nolan Turner, who has spent the last two seasons as a backup to Tanner Muse at free safety, will likely start the spring as the starter. Turner did start four games last season and played in all 15. He brings a ton of experience from his playing time the last two seasons.
Last season, Turner ranked sixth on the team with 66 tackles, including two tackles for a loss and tied Isaiah Simmons and Kendrick with a team-best 10 passes broken up. Turner also had two interceptions, including the game-clinching interception to beat Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, sending the Tigers to the national championship game.
Redshirt junior Mario Goodrich has the most experience after Kendrick at cornerback. He likely will start the spring first. However, looked for him to be challenged by former five-star Andrew Booth, who struggled at times in his first year trying to grasp Venables’ schemes and concepts.
Fellow 2019 freshman, Sheridan Jones, will also be in the mix as well as veteran player and graduate LeAnthony Williams.
Rising sophomore Lannden Zanders appears to be the likely choice to replace Wallace at strong safety, but Joseph Charleston and Ray Thornton will also be right in the mix battling for starting spots and playing time at the two safety positions.
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