For Swinney, Power Rangers aren't the comparison for Clemson's Avengers

For Swinney, Power Rangers aren't the comparison for Clemson's Avengers

Football

For Swinney, Power Rangers aren't the comparison for Clemson's Avengers

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Clemson’s current defensive line is often compared to the group the Tigers had four years ago, and it’s easy to understand why.

Much like the 2018 unit that helped lead Clemson to its most recent national championships, the headliners of what’s expected to be another suffocating defense this season reside up front. Star defensive tackle Bryan Bresee and end Myles Murphy are projected first-round picks while Clemson’s entire starting front four, which includes Tyler Davis and Xavier Thomas, could be drafted the way Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Austin Bryant all were in 2019. Even the group’s adopted superhero-themed moniker, The Avengers, was inspired by the Power Rangers nickname given to that 2018 group.

Yet that’s not the comparison that comes to mind for Dabo Swinney.

“On paper, it reminds me of our ‘14 defensive line,” Clemson’s veteran head coach said.

While his current defensive front may possess the same kind of front-line talent that the 2018 group did, Swinney said the two don’t share the same quality depth.

Clemson returned its entire two-deep up front from a defense that yielded the second-fewest points in the country last season. The Tigers have nine defensive linemen on their roster that have started at least one game. Of those, seven have started multiple games, including another projected draft pick in senior K.J. Henry, who will fill in opposite Murphy on the edge as Thomas works his way back from a foot injury that will sideline him for Clemson’s Labor Day opener against Georgia Tech if not longer.

“Everybody talks about ‘18, and that was a great group, but really very young behind (our starters),” Swinney said. “We got lucky, and you’ve got to have some luck to win a national championship. There’s so much that’s got to go into that. You’ve got to get a little luck along the way, and we were very, very fortunate that Christian, Dexter, Clelin and Austin played every game.

“And we had (defensive tackle) Albert (Huggins). We kind of had five guys, and if you really look at the roster, we were really young, very inexperienced and very unproven behind those guys. Those guys had to play a lot of snaps.”

With another senior end, Justin Mascoll, also part of the rotation at end as well as juniors Ruke Orhorhoro, Tre Williams and Etinosa Reuben on the interior, Swinney said the depth along the current defensive front is at a point where he doesn’t feel like there is “anybody that’s got to go play 60 snaps.” That’s why he said the makeup of this year’s line reminds him more of the 2014 group that had a comparable blend of talent and depth.

Future first-round picks Shaq Lawson and Vic Beasley manned the end sports then, but Kevin Dodd, Tavaris Barnes and Corey Crawford were also part of the rotation on the edge. Yet the Tigers may have been even deeper on the interior that season.

“You look at that (defensive) tackle group, DeShawn Williams, he’s on Year 8 with the (Denver) Broncos,” Swinney said. “Carlos Watkins, D.J. Reader, Grady Jarrett. I think Josh Watson was in the group.

“The only guy I knew was going to start was Grady, and it wasn’t because he was more talented than anybody. He just separated himself in every area. But at that spot, (former defensive tackles coach) Dan (Brooks) would grade them all through Tiger Walk and how he felt like they looked in pregame. And then he’d say, ‘All right, you run out there.’ I never even worried about who was playing.”

The 2014 line spearheaded what was statistically the nation’s best defense that season, so Swinney doesn’t want to get carried away with the comparison. At least not yet.

“I can’t mention this group in the same breath because they haven’t done anything,” Swinney said. “You don’t play it on paper, but it’s a talented group that has the opportunity to do something special this year if we can stay together.”

Dear Old Clemson is excited to announce a limited edition football and poster signed by Clemson’s Avengers.

Now there is a new way you can support Clemson student-athletes. Purchase collectibles from Dear Old Clemson and the proceeds with go to support Clemson student-athletes. Visit Dear Old Clemson to find out how you can help!

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