Clemson might be as deep at defensive tackle has it ever has been, and that is saying something considering how deep the Tigers were when NFL players like D.J. Reader, Carlos Watkins, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Albert Huggins were terrifying offensive backfields from 2015-’18.
But this year’s group might be deeper and, at least from a potential standpoint, could be better than some of the defensive tackle groups in recent years.
First off, the Tigers return both starters at defensive tackle in graduate senior Nyles Pinckney and second-team All-ACC performer Tyler Davis, who is just a sophomore. Also back is veteran Jordan Williams, along with sophomores Darnell Jefferies and Ruke Orhorhoro. Redshirt freshman Etinosa Reuben will be in the mix and then of course there are the sensational freshmen of Bryan Bresee, DeMonte Capehart and Tre Williams.
“This group is probably the most experienced group I have been around and most technically sound,” Pinckney said. “I feel like we can all play at any moment and at any time, so the rotation is never the same.”
Pinckney said the rotation in practice has been pretty even to this point.
“We have so many guys that can play at a high level right now. So, it is really not a set front,” the graduate said. “Some days I am with Tyler and some days I am with Jordan and Bryan, Ruke, Darnell, all of them.”
This year’s defensive line kind of reminds Pinckney of what the defensive front was like when he came in as a freshman in 2016. He ended up redshirting that season, but he remembers how great everyone was and how they all helped him and answered any questions he had.
Now, he is paying it forward.
“I had a good example when I first came here,” Pinckney said. “When I first came in, I had Christian Wilkins, Carlos Watkins, Cle [Ferrell], Austin [Bryant], so I had a lot of good examples. So, I just kind of followed and piggybacked off of them because they all taught me very well at a young age and I feel like that helped me grow.
“So, when they come to me, I kind of think back to how Christian would teach me. Every guy needs a different kind of approach. Some guys may need to be treated hard and you have to stay on them, while some guys may need positive role models, being positive, happy and kidding with them. So, I feel like I learned different kinds of ways. It is a good feeling knowing people come to me.”
Pinckney says even experienced players like Davis come to him for help, which is why he makes sure he is listening and gives them the best advice or help that he can.
“He still has some questions on certain things. We talk going back and forth trying to figure things out,” Pinckney said. “Ruke has asked me a lot of questions. He has not been playing football that long and certain things like that, so he has been asking different ways he can get better and improve his game. He knows he can play, especially with this kind of year with COVID. Anybody can test positive for something like that or feel sick and can’t play, so he knows he has to step up.”
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