With Nolan Turner sidelined for the spring due to shoulder surgery and K’Von Wallace, Tanner Muse and Denzel Johnson all graduated, Dabo Swinney entered Clemson’s spring practices very concerned about the safety positions.
There was no veteran presence in the room. The closest people he had to veterans, that participated in the Tigers’ nine spring practices, were sophomores Lannden Zanders, Joseph Charleston, and Jalyn Phillips. And they all played sparingly in 2019.
“That was probably the biggest thing,” Swinney said. “I feel really good about our corner positions. Although, it was a mess this spring because everybody was hurt. Fred Davis, LeAnthony Williams and DK [Derion Kendrick] got a lot of work, but outside of that everybody was hurt. But I know what we have in that room, as far as the ability.
“But at safety, losing K’Von, losing Muse, those were two big losses right there, losing Denzel and now Nolan is out, that’s four guys. So, how do we step up from there?”
They apparently stepped up well. After evaluating all the tape from the practices, the stadium scrimmage and a half-scrimmage, Swinney not only feels better about his safeties, he said it is one of the team’s strengths.
“Man, what an awesome job our safeties did this spring. That is going to be a strength for us. I don’t have any doubt about it,” the head coach said. “Mickey [Conn] has done a great job identifying the right guys but Zanders, Joseph Charleston, Jalyn Phillips and Ray Thornton, those guys came a long way and got better, better and better.
“I am really excited about that group, then you throw Nolan back in there, when he gets back in the fall, that is going to be a strength for our team.”
Swinney says his safeties are fast, physical, very athletic, and, most importantly, they know what they are doing.
“These guys have a really good knowledge base,” he said. “I tell these guys you can always tell who is preparing and who is not. They played last year, but they were not the frontline guys, but they had the same opportunity to learn, to practice, to watch, to pay attention. So, it’s pretty cool to see those guys being ready for their opportunity and it is very obvious they were kind of preparing in the dark, if you will.
“Now, boom! They are stepping into this moment and they’re ready to go.”
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