In Saturday’s win over Wake Forest, Clemson’s defensive line gave the country a glimpse of how good it can be this year. Despite missing last year’s starters in Xavier Thomas and Justin Foster at defensive end, as well defensive tackle Tyler Davis, who was banged up in the contest, the Demon Deacons had no answer up front.
Of the Tigers’ six sacks in Saturday’s 37-13 victory, 4.5 came from the defensive line. In all, Clemson had 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, 6.5 credited to defensive linemen. The other 4.5 came from linebackers and safeties who were able to run through gapping holes created by the guys up front.
“I am really proud of those guys,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “[Justin] Mascoll and K.J. [Henry], it was so good to see K.J. He has become such a great leader for us and just seeing him become a technician guy out there and great job with his technique and getting that first sack … and then Brain [Bresee] is just a big load in there.
“I saw a lot of good things from that group, and then Reagan Upshaw. You did not have Foster and you did not have Xavier Thomas and I thought those guys did a heck of a job. Xavier and Justin, when they get back rolling, that is just more fuel for the fire there.”
Without Thomas and Foster at defensive end, Clemson leaned on freshman Myles Murphy, who opened his career with one of the more dominant performances by a freshman defensive lineman in school history.
Murphy led the Tigers with seven tackles, including three tackles for loss and two sacks. His two sacks were the most by a true freshman since Dexter Lawrence had two against Virginia Tech in the 2016 ACC Championship Game.
“He is pretty special. He and Bresee, they are freshmen on paper only,” Swinney said. “They are smart, they are instinctive, they are big and physical and incredible coachable guys. That is not the norm at all.
“For a true freshman coming in, he really has all the attributes that you look for…It was great to see us get that type of start and that type of production out of Myles right out of the gate because I know he is just going to get better from there.”
Murphy will have an opportunity to get even better this Saturday when Clemson hosts The Citadel in its home opener at 4 p.m. at Death Valley.
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