When Kevin Swint picked up his phone and Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables was on the other end of the line, wanting to know if he would be open to working at defensive end this spring, Swint was on board with the idea.
“Coach Venables called me one morning and just asked me would I be interested in cross-training at D-end,” Swint said, “and I was willing to do that and help make the team better.”
Swint, who spent his first season at Clemson in 2020 playing linebacker, said he has seen most of his action at defensive end in spring practice and hasn’t taken many reps at linebacker this spring.
Rushing the passer is something that comes naturally to Swint, a former four-star prospect who came to Clemson as part of the 2020 class that was the first freshman class in school history to be ranked No. 1 in the country.
Swint tallied more than 40 sacks during his career at Carrollton (Ga.) High School and started playing some defensive end his sophomore year there.
“It’s kind of been a thing I’ve done since I was young,” he said of getting after the quarterback. “So, I’ve kind of been used to it. It’s nothing really new.”
At 6-foot-3 and around 230 pounds, and used to playing a fast position like linebacker, Swint feels his speed and quickness off the edge gives him an edge when working against offensive tackles.
“I feel like that does help in a way because that gives me an advantage to work speed rushes and ghost moves and many other moves that consist of speed rushes and stuff like that,” he said. “So, that does come into playing defensive end.”
The biggest adjustment Swint has had to make is becoming accustomed to the speed of the game in the trenches compared to the middle of the defense.
“I think at D-end, things happen way faster than they happen at linebacker,” he said. “I think at linebacker, you get a little more split time to evaluate things. But at D-end, it’s like right then and there, and you’ve got to use your eyes more. That’s one thing I had to improve on, using my eyes and just hand placement and stuff like that.”
Swint’s move to defensive end has helped the Tigers out this spring in terms of depth at the position. K.J. Henry is sitting out the spring due to post-season surgery and Justin Foster has retired from the game.
Defensive ends such as Henry, Justin Mascoll and Myles Murphy have given Swint advice and tried to get him up to speed in his transition to a new position.
“They’ve been helping me watching film and stuff like that, catching me up and helping me learn on the fly,” Swint said. “So, those guys have really been holding me accountable, and vice versa.”
Defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall is also coaching the rising sophomore hard every day in practice.
“He’s always on me about having my hands in the right place, having my eyes — eyes are the biggest thing that I need to improve on this spring,” Swint said. “So, he coaches me up on hand placement and pad level and all the things that consist of being a D-end that can play on a consistent level at all times.”
Swint came to Clemson with impressive accolades as one of the most productive defensive players in the state of Georgia during his time in high school.
A four-year starter at Carrollton High and three-time captain as voted by his teammates, Swint recorded 41.5 career sacks among his 359.5 tackles and was a two-time all-state selection.
The No. 139 overall player in the 2020 class per ESPN knows there is plenty he can get better at from the defensive end spot, but believes he is on the right track.
“There’s still room for improvement,” he said. “It’s never a perfect day. So, there’s always room for improvement, but I feel like I have been making a little bit of progress. But just keep watching film and keep getting better as the spring goes along.”
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