Though the defense returns 10 starters with at least three games starting experience, Clemson’s depth at cornerback is a concern.
Of course, it did not help that All-ACC corner Derion Kendrick was dismissed from the team right when spring practice began. He has since transferred to Georgia and will play against the Tigers in the Sept. 4 season opener.
It also did not help that veteran reserve, and graduate, LeAnthony Williams transferred to Marshall. That left Clemson with just six cornerbacks, one short of what they like to have on the roster heading into the 2021 season.
The good news for the Tigers is they still have experience at the position. Andrew Booth, Sheridan Jones and Mario Goodrich are three guys who have played a lot the last few years. However, they have also been inconsistent, and in Booth’s and Goodrich’s cases they have had a hard time staying healthy.
Clemson will get Malcolm Greene back when fall camp begins later this summer. The sophomore missed the last half of spring practice due to a shoulder injury that required surgery.
Greene is expected to be the Tigers nickel back this coming season. Goodrich, who has played the position in the past, will also play the nickel spot at times.
“That is something he has always kind of worked at a little bit,” head coach Dabo Swinney said this past spring. “But it is something with the six guys we got. We got six guys that we think will be able to play winning football for us next season. We are going to need two of those guys to be able to create some depth (at nickel).”
The corner positions have always helped provide depth at the SAM/nickel spot. So, it appears Greene and Goodrich are the top targets to play out the role this fall, but not the only two as Swinney described.
“Malcolm (Greene) obviously, has great experience and Mario is another guy that has done it some and really wants to continue to grow in that role, as well as at corner,” Swinney said. “So, we will continue to cross train both of those guys and then we have other guys that are working a lot there as well in (Tyler) Venables and (R.J.) Mickens, and of course Trenton (Simpson) is still working there.
“We are developing some good depth that I feel good about and I think those two guys will do a nice job for us as we get ready for the season.”
Simpson is the starting linebacker on the strong side and is a guy defensive coordinator Brent Venables thinks could turn into a three-down player, which of course, will help with the depth situation. But heading into fall camp, it is going to be important the Tigers do not lose anymore players at the corner positions.
Clemson opens the season on Sept. 4 against Georgia at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on ABC.