On ESPN’s College Football Live this week, ESPN analyst Tom Luginbill talked about Clemson’s defense/special teams heading into the upcoming season.
If Luginbill could choose any combination of defense and special teams to have, he said he would take the Tigers’ combo in those phases of the game.
“I think they’ve got the deepest, most fierce two-deep in the front four of any defense in college football, at least heading into the season,” Luginbill said. “And then you take a look at their running back, who’s on the verge of maybe breaking out as a premier player in Will Shipley, and he’s a top return man returning as a top performer in the return game. So, if he stays healthy and that defense stays intact, I like that combination of kicking game and defense for Clemson. Oh, by the way, the placekicker’s back at Clemson as well.”
The kicker Luginbill alluded to is of course B.T. Potter, who enters 2022 with a 53-of-71 career mark on field goals and a 185-of-186 mark on PATs in 55 career games (40 starts), while also entering 2022 averaging 64.26 yards on 368 career kickoffs with 280 touchbacks.
Clemson is coming off a 2021 campaign in which its defense ranked second nationally behind only defending national champion Georgia in points per game allowed (14.8) and eighth nationally in total defense (305.5 yards per game allowed).
Although defensive end Xavier Thomas is expected to miss four to six weeks with a foot injury suffered in last Saturday’s scrimmage, the Tigers still boast an ultra deep and talented defensive line with the likes of Myles Murphy, K.J. Henry, Justin Mascoll, Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis among numerous others.
Clemson ranked 15th nationally last season in average kickoff return yards (24.86), with Shipley averaging 27.1 yards on 14 kickoff returns.