Judging by his first public comments since officially being added to Clemson’s coaching staff, to say Nick Eason is looking forward to being back at his alma mater 19 years after leaving would be an understatement. And there’s one aspect of his return that has him particularly excited.
“Most of all, I am looking forward to working with one of the best defensive lines in the country,” Eason said in a statement.
Eason will serve not only as Clemson’s defensive tackles coach but also the defensive run-game coordinator, meaning he’ll also be working with the Tigers’ ends to some extent. And there will be plenty of talent for Eason to work with up front.
Clemson is set to return nearly all of its primary contributors along the line, including at least three starters. The group got a boost heading into the offseason when defensive end K.J. Henry recently announced he will be returning next season. Henry started four games this season and finished with 4.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss.
The Tigers are still waiting on a decision from Xavier Thomas, who has a COVID year to use if he chooses to do so. The senior started 10 of the 12 games he played this season and recorded 3.5 sacks to go with a whopping 18 quarterback hurries. Justin Mascoll and Kevin Swint, a reserve this season, also have eligibility left.
But Clemson has arguably the best of the bunch coming back on the edge in sophomore Myles Murphy, who led the team with seven sacks and 14 tackles for loss and could be a first-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft. It’s a complement to the depth and talent the Tigers have at the position Eason will be coaching full-time.
Barring any transfers, Clemson will return its top six interior linemen on a defense that finished second nationally in points allowed, seventh in rushing yards allowed, eighth in total yards allowed, ninth in sacks and 13th in tackles for loss. Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis are the headliners.
The nation’s No. 1 overall prospect in the 2020 recruiting cycle, Bresee is another player that could be in line to be a high draft pick come this time next year if he can return to his pre-injury form. The 6-foot-5, 305-pounder tallied 6.5 tackles for loss and four sacks as a freshman All-American, numbers he was on pace to surpass through four games this season (three tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks) before a torn ACL ended his sophomore campaign prematurely.
Davis is a three-year starter at defensive tackle and could turn himself into a draft pick with another solid season. He finished this one strong following his return from a bicep injury that forced him to miss three games, posting 25 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss (all sacks) and seven hurries.
Meanwhile, Ruke Orhorhoro benefitted the most from some of the attrition on the interior. The third-year sophomore stepped in to start eight games following Bresee’s injury and made the most of his extended playing time, finishing the season with 42 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He enters the spring as clear-cut No. 3 tackle.
There’s also Tre Williams, Etinosa Reuben and Payton Page, who were all part of the rotation on the interior this season. Eason will also get a chance to work with redshirt freshman DeMonte Capehart, who missed most of the season with a knee injury, and freshmen ends Cade Denhoff and Zaire Patterson, former four-star recruits who both redshirted this season.
With no shortage of talented options, it’s easy to understand why Eason is giddy about the group he’s inheriting.
Clemson Variety & Frame is doing their part to help bring you some classic new barware and help one of the local businesses that helps make Clemson special.
Order your Nick’s barware and do your part to help. #SaveNicks