Myles Murphy. Bryan Bresee. K.J. Henry. Xavier Thomas. Justin Foster. Justin Mascoll. Tyler Davis. Ruke Orhorhoro. Tre Williams.
This list seemingly goes on and on.
Those names, of course, make up a significant portion of a Clemson defensive line that’s not exactly starving for publicity, and for good reason. With seven of those linemen having started at least one game for the Tigers — five of them at defensive end — a Clemson defensive front that’s expected to be among the best in college football this season can simultaneously frustrate and benefit the offense it goes up against every day.
But Clemson coach Dabo Swinney would like to think the benefits go both ways.
Swinney said the personnel his defense has to routinely square off against has something to do with molding it into the unit it’s become, particularly up front. There are two offensive linemen, Swinney said, that help prepare Clemson’s defensive ends for anyone they might go against during the season.
“You’re not going to see a better offensive lineman in the country than Jordan McFadden nowhere, and (Walker) Parks is not far off,” Swinney said. “For our ends to have to go against those type of players, and for our ‘backers and our (defensive backs) and secondary guys to have to match up against the skill with the tight ends and the backs, it’s a challenge for our defense because there’s a lot going on.”
McFadden is a preseason first-team all-ACC selection at left tackle, a position he’s taking over following the departure of Cincinnati Bengals draft pick Jackson Carman. McFadden started every game at right tackle as a sophomore last season and could follow Carman’s footsteps into the NFL with another solid year.
Meanwhile, Parks is sliding into McFadden’s old spot on the right side. Parks was seemingly groomed for a full-time role up front last season when he appeared in 11 games en route to freshman All-America honors from ESPN. The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder was a top-100 recruit nationally coming out of Douglass High School in Lexington, Kentucky.
But Henry, one of those ends that regularly sees the group up close and personal, said the depth of the offensive line should also be talked about. Matt Bockhorst and Will Putnam are back at guard with 63 games played between them, and while the Tigers are still searching for their next starting center, there are no shortage of options there with Mason Trotter, Hunter Rayburn, Trent Howard and Ryan Linthicum (and Bockhorst) vying for the job. Throw in youngsters like Paul Tchio, Marcus Tate, Dietrick Pennington and Tristan Leigh just to name a few, and the Tigers’ offensive front has plenty of bodies to help sharpen the defensive line, too.
“We’ve got some depth on the o-line as well,” Henry said. “It’s just been great to see and great to compete against.”