4. College Football News Preview 2020: Clemson Tigers Defense 3 Things To Know
– Somehow, Brent Venables is still the Clemson defensive coordinator and not the head coach somewhere else, and once again he’ll help put together a dominant defense after the team led the ACC – and was sixth in the nation in total D, was third in the country in scoring defense, and allowed fewer than 17 points to everyone but North Carolina (20), Ohio State (23) and LSU (42).
Gone is leading tackler Isaiah Simmons – the best linebacker in the nation last year – to the Arizona Cardinals. Four of the top five tacklers are done, star corner AJ Terrell is gone, and so is safety K’Von Wallace. There’s more than enough talent is in place around the five returning starters, beginning with a defensive front that had few problems reloading after losing the epic 2018 front four.
Former star recruit DE Xavier Kelly is leaving for Arkansas, but that’s partly because the line is just that deep. Xavier Thomas was overdue to blossom into stardom on one side, but he’s sitting out for the season over health concerns. Justin Foster is already and All-ACC-caliber talent on the other side who’ll rise up.
If Tyler Davis and Nyles Pinkney aren’t the nation’s best defensive tackle tandem, they’re in the team photo. On the way are super-recruits Bryan Bresee and DeMonte Capehart for the interior and Myles Murphy for the outside – the cupboard is fully stocked, even with all the changes.
– There’s no replacing Isaiah Simmons in the linebacking corps, but senior James Skalski is back after finishing second on the team with 90 stops as a dependable all-around tackler on the inside. He’ll own the inside, but now the outside parts have to fill in for Simmons and third-leading tackler Chad Smith.
Junior Baylon Spector is a 230-pound hitter who came up with his share of plays in the rotation, but getting sophomores Mike Jones and Jake Venables to take over for Simmons will be an issue.
– Three starters in the secondary are off to the NFL. The Las Vegas Raiders took AJ Terrell in the first round, and then took safety Tanner Muse in the third. Fellow safety K’Von Wallace went to the Eagles in the fourth, and now corner Derion Kendrick is all that’s left – but he’s a good one.
Senior Nolan Turner will find a safety job after making 48 stops last year, but the other two spots will be a fight through fall camp. Junior Mario Goodrich was a big-time corner recruit in 2018, but he’s been sparingly used so far.