Clemson’s young safeties should benefit from last year’s experiences

Clemson’s young safeties should benefit from last year’s experiences


Clemson’s young safeties should benefit from last year’s experiences


A look at Clemson’s 2021 depth chart heading into spring practice: Strong safety

Lannden Zanders took a lot of heat following the Clemson Tigers’ loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. But it was not all on him.

The Tigers were up and down on the backend of its defense in 2020 and in the end the inconsistency caught up with them.

A lot of their issues had to do with experience, or lack thereof. Zanders was a first-time starter at strong safety, while Ray Thornton and Jalyn Phillips played very little prior to 2020, as well. Then there is redshirt freshman R.J. Mickens, who only took 36 snaps last year.

Though talented, the Tigers were very inexperienced at strong safety. That should change this year. Zanders made nine starts last season, while Thornton started two games and Phillips one when Zanders was out with an injury.

As the old saying goes, there is nothing better than experience.

TCI’s projected depth chart at strong safety heading into spring practice:

Lannden Zanders, Jr., 6-1, 200: Zanders flies to the football and is a playmaker. However, quarterbacks at times, used his aggressive behavior against him. Nothing better than an off-season to review tapes and learn from mistakes of the past. Zanders’ experience last season should pay off this year and for the good of the secondary. Overall, Zanders started nine games for the Tigers in 2020. He recorded 34 tackles, including 2.5 behind the line of scrimmage. He also broke up three passes.

Ray Thornton III, *So., 6-1, 205: Thornton spent last year primarily as a reserve player. However, he played in all 12 games for the Tigers, including two starts. He finished the season with 17 tackles and one pass breakup.

Jalyn Phillips, Jr., 6-1, 210: Phillips played in 11 games and started one for Clemson last season. He tallied 16 tackles, had a half sack, broke up two passes and recorded and interception.

R.J. Mickens, *Fr., 6-0, 200: Mickens played in 10 games, but mostly on special teams. Of course, due to injuries in the secondary, he was thrown into action in the Tigers’ double overtime loss at Notre Dame. Again, valuable experience that should pay off for Mickens and Clemson in 2021.

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