One area Clemson hopes to be improved this season is at the safety position.
Though the Tigers finished second in the ACC last year in interceptions and second in passing defense, there were times when the safeties were torched for big plays, especially in losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State.
Former Buckeyes’ quarterback Justin Fields had a career day in last year’s Sugar Bowl, throwing for 385 yards and six touchdowns on 22-of-28 passing. His six touchdown passes were a Sugar Bowl record.
From a competitive standpoint, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney felt the Tigers bounced back and had a good spring at safety.
“All those guys had good days and it has been incredibly competitive,” Swinney said after the Spring Game this past April. “We did not have [Lannden] Zanders out there and we did not have Nolan [Turner] out there from a live standpoint, but I thought Ray [Thornton] has improved. [Joseph] Charleston, I thought, was very consistent this spring. We are pleased with his development. [R.J.] Mickens is a really promising young player. You saw him make a big play today. He has to have a big summer.”
Mickens recorded a second-quarter interception on a deep pass thrown by backup quarterback Taisun Phommachanh.
“They all have things they have to do between now and August. And they all played well,” Swinney said. “Tyler [Venables] could play safety. We feel comfortable with him. But [Andrew] Mukuba was having a really good spring until he got hurt on (March 29) and broke a bone in his arm.
“It is going to be a very competitive group.”
And it carries over into the summer and later fall camp. The Tigers will have everything decided by Sept. 4 when they open the 2021 Football Season against Georgia at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Georgia quarterback JT Daniels will be a good first test for Clemson.
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