With highly touted recruits Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy coming in, the production on the defensive line was expected to go up in 2020. Let’s just say they did not disappoint.
Bresee was the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year, while Murphy had an argument to win the same award. The two freshmen were outstanding as they helped Clemson lead the nation in sacks with 46 and finish second in tackles for loss with 109.
Murphy, who started seven games, led the Tigers with 12 tackles for loss and was tied for second on the team with four sacks. The defensive end, who had 41 tackles, also forced three fumbles, and broke up one pass.
Bresee, who also earned First Team All-ACC honors, tallied 23 tackles from his defensive tackle position. The Maryland native started 10 games for the Tigers, while recording 6.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Four of those tackles for loss were sacks.
The freshman also knocked down two passes, had four quarterback hurries, and forced one fumble. Bresee also blocked a kick and recorded a safety.
When he was healthy, no one was better than Tyler Davis. Though he suffered through nagging knee and ankle injuries for a good part of the season, when the defensive tackle was playing, no one could really run on the Tigers. Before the Sugar Bowl, opponents were averaging less than two yards per carry and 70 yards per game when Davis was in the lineup.
Though he missed five games, Davis still had 14 tackles, including five tackles for loss and two sacks.
Defensive ends K.J. Henry and Justin Mascoll were also productive. Henry had 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, while Mascoll recorded 4.5 tackles behind the line, including two sacks. Though he played in seven games due to COVID-19, Xavier Thomas had 3.5 sacks to go along with four tackles for loss. He also forced a fumble.
Defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney, who has since transferred to Minnesota for his final year, was credited with three tackles behind the line and a sack.
In all, Clemson’s defensive line helped the Tigers lead the ACC in total defense, while finishing second in scoring and rushing defense and yards per rush. Clemson allowed just nine rushing touchdowns, which were the fewest in the ACC.
The only bad game the defensive line truly had came in the Sugar Bowl in which Ohio State’s veteran offensive line overpowered Clemson’s defensive front.
However, the Tigers held seven of Clemson’s 12 opponents under 100 yards on the ground, while only Notre Dame in the first meeting and the Buckeyes eclipsed more than 150 yards.
After giving up 208 rushing yards to Notre Dame in the regular-season meeting, Clemson held the Irish to 44 yards and 1.6 yards per carry in the ACC Championship game.