Clemson made another change to its starting defensive line against Wake Forest, though this one had nothing to do with attrition.
While K.J. Henry and Ruke Orhorhoro have gotten spot starts for the injured Xavier Thomas and Tyler Davis up front, defensive end Justin Mascoll entered the starting lineup for the first time this season against the Demon Deacons. It was a notable change considering Myles Murphy is widely considered one of the Tigers’ top prospects for next year’s NFL Draft.
Murphy had just eight tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack through the Tigers’ first three games. Defensive coordinator Wesley Goodwin said Mascoll had a better week of practice following a solid performance the previous week against Louisiana Tech.
“I think it just goes into the week of preparation,” Goodwin said. “Those guys are co-starters, and everything counts.”
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney echoed that sentiment during his weekly press conference Tuesday, reiterating that he believes the Tigers have four ends capable of starting when the group is intact. Mascoll has 12 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss through the first four games of his senior season.
“Not that (Myles) has played bad, but Mascoll played great against La Tech,” Swinney said. “He just played better.”
While the coaching staff may view the position as interchangeable, Murphy has been one of Clemson’s more impactful linemen since becoming a starter midway through a freshman All-American season. Now a junior, Murphy has compiled more than 100 tackles and double-digit sacks over 19 career starts. The 6-foot-5, 290-pounder led Clemson in sacks and tackles for loss a season ago.
Murphy still got his share of reps against Wake Forest, and Swinney and Goodwin noted he performed better in the Tigers’ double-overtime win. He finished with five tackles and half a sack.
Now Goodwin wants to see it more consistently from the Tigers’ talented edge defender.
“I think this was Myles’ best performance,” Goodwin said. “Just want to continue to see him, getting into conference play, where hopefully we can get some better rushes on quarterbacks and using his athleticism on the edge as well. I definitely think he took a step forward this past game.”
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