Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has said since the spring that the Tigers’ secondary might be the best collection of players he has had on the backend during his 12 years at Clemson.
Safety Nolan Turner confirmed his head coach’s statements following Thursday’s practice at Jervey Meadows. Through the seven days of fall camp, the Tigers young players at safety and cornerback have stood out, which is good news for a group that is trying to replace three starters and one key reserve from last year’s defense.
“These guys are just super bought in. We have a great group of young safeties and DBs,” Turner said. “They are just super athletic and have really bought in. They have really bridged the gap of inexperience throughout this quarantine of meetings and everything, so it has been a good time.”
Technically, this will also be Turner’s first year as a full-time starter, though he has played a huge role as a reserve safety the last two seasons. Sophomore Lannden Zanders had a good nine practices in the spring and has earned the starting spot at the other safety position for now.
But Turner feels any of the other five safeties—Joseph Charleston, Ray Thornton, Jalyn Phillips, R.J. Mickens and Tyler Venables—can also start and be very productive. Overall, it is a deep group of young and talented players the Tigers have playing safety.
“They have all done a great job. Lannden has obviously stood out. He is very ranging and makes a lot of plays. He is a freaky athletic,” Turner said. “Joseph Charleston, Ray Thornton, both of them, along with Jalyn Phillips, they have done just a great job learning the defense, getting in and getting a bunch of reps and making plays out here.
“Joe has really caught my eye, too. He is a thumper. He likes to hit. We have some physical dudes back there, so it has been good. It is good to see.”
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