Thanks to injuries and some off the field issues, Clemson played a bunch of players in its secondary. The end result of so many guys starting and playing led to some inconsistency at times on the backend.
Nonetheless, despite all the moving parts and a rough night in New Orleans on New Year’s, the Tigers still ended the season as one of the best secondary’s in the ACC.
Clemson led the conference with 14 interceptions, while opponents competed just 55.4 percent of their passes, which ranked second. The Tigers also ranked second in yards allowed through the air (214.2/game) and in pass efficiency defense (126.5).
Safety Nolan Turner was the leader of the group, as was his production on the field. He finished second on the defense with 66 tackles, while leading the team with three interceptions. He also broke up three more passes and had six tackles for loss. Turner was named All-ACC and All-American following the season.
Surprisingly, Joseph Charleston, Turner’s backup, was third on the team with 53 tackles. He also had two tackles behind the line and broke up two passes.
Derion Kendrick, who was in and out of Dabo Swinney’s “Love Shack” all season, earned First Team All-ACC recognition following a year that saw him record 21 tackles, while breaking up a team-high six passes. He also had one interception and returned a fumble 66 yards for a touchdown in the Tigers’ win over Virginia Tech.
Lannden Zanders started at strong safety for much of the year, and overall had a good season as a first-time starter. He recorded 35 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss. He also broke up three passes in helping a Clemson defense that led the ACC and was in second in scoring defense.
At the corner position opposite Kendrick, Andrew Booth and Sheridan Jones battled it out all year. Booth made a couple of electrifying interceptions against Miami and Pitt, while recording 31 tackles and breaking up four passes.
Jones started nine games this past fall. He had 22 tackles, broke up three passes and had one interception.
The Tigers also got interceptions from Mario Goodrich, Jalyn Phillips and Malcom Greene. By the end of the season, Greene had come on and even started as the nickel back in the Sugar Bowl. He finished the year with 14 tackles, broke up two passes and had one interception.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, they allowed 385 yards and six touchdowns to Ohio State quarterback Justin Phillips in their last outing, and that is what people will go into the off-season remembering. But, overall, 2020 was a good year for the Clemson secondary.
Could they have done better? Sure! But things were not as bad as some might lead you to believe.