2011 Clemson Pre-Camp DL Analysis

What a difference a year makes for the Clemson defensive line.  Gone are two excellent linemen to the professional ranks.  The losses of DE Da'Quan Bowers and DT Jarvis Jenkins will force Kevin Steele to become much more creative to pressure the quarterback.  These losses will impact the entire defense along with our alignment and philosophy.  If you want to know what we thought about last year's group, here is how we graded out last year's defensive ends/tackles and their coaches.

Along with the 15+ sacks and constant mayhem Bowers brought to the table, both he and Jenkins demanded a double team.  Their departures now free up offensive linemen that would have been required for a double on one or both of these guys.  We will also have to be more creative to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.  Last season, Steele was able to play a lot of basic four man fronts in his 4-3 and get pressure from this front.  This season, look for Clemson to utilize more 3 man fronts, particularly if multiple members of the Tigers' excellent linebacker class of '11 are ready to play as freshmen or if we struggle getting pressure with our base front.

Steele will also deal with a staff shakeup, as Chris Rumph left Clemson for Alabama and was replaced with Duke Co-Defensive Coordinator Marion Hobby.  Hobby is an upgrade from a technical and teaching standpoint and I'll take this time to give kudos to Coach Swinney for quickly luring in a very good replacement. That is not to say that Rumph was a bad position coach. He did put a lot of players in the pro game. Granted they were extremely talented to begin with, but these guys went from Rumph's supervision to the NFL. We are really hoping that Marion can get our players to give half an effort before their junior years, as we saw loafing and poor technique out of guys like Bowers and Sapp early in their Clemson careers.

As you know by now, we respect Coach Brooks and his entire resume of work.  This quote pretty much sums up the quality you get out of Brooks:

"Dan Brooks may be the best combination of coach + recruiter on staff. He can develop his talent and has done so everywhere he's been. He will have his work cut out for him with some of the youngsters but I think he can do it. Our worry is whether or not he can get them to a good level within one year, because I think some of these guys are definitely 2-3 year projects."

Long and short, our defensive line coaching is more than adequate, particularly if they can keep the up-front intensity level high all season.

Clemson will depend on seniors Branch, Moore, Thompson, and Brown along with junior Goodman, and freshman Crawford to fill the voids left by Jenkins and Bowers. Branch and Goodman will be depended upon to hold down the end position.   

Defensive Linemen on Roster in Spring

#

Player

Pos.

Hgt.

Wgt.

Cl.

Exp.

Hometown

HS/JC

6

Tavaris Barnes

DT

6-3

265

*Fr.

RS

Jacksonville, FL

First Coast HS

40

Andre Branch

DE

6-5

260

*Sr.

3VL

Richmond, VA

Varina HS

43

Tyler Shatley

DT

6-3

295

*So.

1VL

Icard, NC

East Burke HS

73

Joe Gore

DE

6-6

260

Fr.

HS

Lake Waccamaw, NC

East Columbus HS

90

Kourtnei Brown

DE

6-5

250

*Sr.

3VL

Charlotte, NC

Victory Christian Center School

91

Josh Watson

DT

6-4

270

*Fr.

RS

Wilmington, DE

John Dickinson HS

93

Corey Crawford

DE

6-5

275

Fr.

HS

Columbus, GA

G.W. Carver HS

94

Rennie Moore

DT

6-4

270

*Sr.

3VL

Saint Marys, GA

Camden County HS

95

Tra Thomas

DT

6-0

285

*Fr.

RS

Wadesboro, NC

Anson HS

97

Malliciah Goodman

DE

6-4

265

Jr.

2VL

Florence, SC

West Florence HS

98

Brandon Thompson

DT

6-2

310

Sr.

3VL

Thomasville, GA

Thomasville HS

 Veteran Interior Linemen

Three Technique

Rennie Moore is the starter at one tackle. Moore transitioned from end to 3 technique earlier in his career and, thus, is a better pass rusher than run stopper. Rennie has a tremendous amount of upside but, like most all of the defensive linemen, needs to get after it on each and every play. We saw some glimmers out of him in the past and hope that Brooks will get after him to assure his motor is always running. A consistently high intensity levely out of RM should backfill the personnel losses inside during passing downs. Moore enters fall camp as the clear starter and, with lack of experience behind him on the depth chart, is not likely to relinquish the starting role this season.

Behind Moore at the three tech is a gaggle of freshmen:  Redshirt freshmen Barnes, Thomas, and Watson.  Tavaris Barnes enters fall camp in the #2 spot based on everything we heard in the spring practice and throughout the summer.  Barnes got repetitions at the end spot last season and, due to numbers, was moved inside.  He still needs to bulk up a bit but this position move was definitely not expected.  Reps this fall for Barnes will be a defensive line depth building criticality.

Tra Thomas and Josh Watson are neck and neck competing for the third spot. We have not been overly impressed from any reports about these two guys. Watson was injured last year and has been putting on necessary weight needed to play inside.  As we've said here before, the coaches may have misevaluated Watson.  Reports on Thomas were equally as disappointing coming out of the spring. Without substantial improvement, we will be in trouble if we get to the three deep at this position. This fall will be critical, though, as we have to establish depth here once Moore is gone.

Roderick Byers will redshirt and end up inside at the three someday, but likely starts at DE. He needs to add bulk because he is not ready to play today at DT at his current size.  This is a guy we'll be paying close attention to as we'll lack quality depth going into the '12 season if Byers doesn't pan out.

Nose Guard - 1 Technique

Brandon Thompson gets the start at Nose and we've already discussed how excited we are about Thompson again as a 0/1 technique this fall.  Thompson has all the tools to be a big time player if he, like Moore, can keep his intensity level up on each and every play and stay in proper playing shape.  The quote below shows why we are so frustrated with underachievement, wasted talent, and lack of effort we've seen over the past few years out of highly talented defensive linemen:

"(Steele) wants me to be a dominant player every snap," Thompson. "In past years, I had my plays ... but I wasn't in football shape."

Read more: http://www.thestate.com/2011/07/30/1917208/steele-in-rush-to-find-solution.html#RSS=sports#ixzz1TjJMRtQ9

The quick and dirty is that Thompson is good enough to be a relatively early pick in the 2012 NFL draft IF he puts forth the necessary effort this season.

Behind him is where we're worried.

Tyler Shatley will get some quality snaps again this season and could fill in at either interior position.  For this exercise, we placed him at the nose.  A lot of people will probably be surprised to see that he got well over 100 snaps last season.  He hasn't exactly knocked the staff's socks off to date but will provide serviceable snaps this fall.  We openly pondered predicting Thomas moving ot nose early in fall drills to get an early idea of the necessity of this option.  Clemson has to shore up some quality depth at nose.

DeShaun Williams and Grady Jarrett will are the two incoming freshmen who will be competing to avoid a redshirt.  I would like to avoid playing either but don't see how we can do that given the thin numbers at the nose.  If I had to guess, based on body build alone I would say that Williams will evade the redshirt.  Again, we will have a good idea about these two a week or so into camp. Jarrett has to do more work to get into shape, as does Maybank.

Defensive End

Strongside

Junior Malliciah Goodman will be holding it down on the strongside. He's impressed us the past couple years, particularly his freshman season. The staff subbed him in for Bowers frequently in '09 and '10, so in-game experience isn't the issue. He still has some technical items to fix (over pursuit, pad level, play identification) but is another player who, if he puts forth the necessary effort, could have a nice payday in the pros.  We'll be interested to see the progress Hobby has cleaning up Goodman's form over the next couple weeks.

Kourtnei Brown made the move from Bandit to Strongside over the Winter and, if needed, could swap back if we're in a bind. The injury-prone senior has not lived up to his NSD hype.  We've documented his fundamental deficiencies here before.  All that said, if he can avoid injury, Brown will get his share of quality snaps.  Brown has tons of talent and is very serviceable at end.  We just hope Coach Hobby can fix the technical items by camp's end (or season's beginning) and Brown can finally approach his potential.

Joe Gore was tentatively placed in this group.  After a knee injury earlier this summer and surgery, he's out. He is almost assured to redshirt AND we expect him to end up on the offensive side of the football before all is said and done.  His key this fall is to assure the knee is healthy and, if he will change positions, to make the move earlier rather than in Spring 2012.

Bandit

Andre Branch is the clear starter entering camp.  Branch had a really nice season in '09 and was dependable last season.  We like his attitude and his hard playing style but, like the rest of the group, needs to focus on keeping his motor wide open all the time.  We'd like to see production more like '09 than last season, but don't have too many technical issues with Branch's play.  Everything out of the Clemson this spring pointed to Branch's appreciable improvement heading into '11 fall camp.

Corey Crawford has been a big story since coming on campus last January. Crawford had a great Spring and will end up on the two deep for the Troy game.  It is great to see a true freshman come in and get as much acclaim as CC has this year.  He provides much needed quality depth at the end position.  We could see Crawford eventually moving to the strongside or, at 6'5", bulk up a bit and move inside.

I'll point out we discussed Spencer Shuey playing bandit end in our linebacker analysis.  He will continue to rep with both groups to provide potential depth in both spots, if necessary. I think the only way he gets appreciable snaps is at DE.

We list the 2011 signees below.  Please note that Kevin Dodd will not be in Clemson this fall.

2011 Newcomers

NAME

Position

Hometown

High School

Ht/Wt/40

Rivals Rating

Roderick Byers

DE

Rock Hill, SC

Northwestern

6'4"/262/NA

3 stars

Corey Crawford

DE

Chatham, VA

Hargrave Military Academy

6'5"/275/NA

4 stars

Kevin Dodd

DT

Greer, SC

Riverside

6'5"/277/4.8

3 stars

Joe Gore

DE

Lake Waccamaw, NC

East Columbus

6'6"/262/4.8

3 stars

Grady Jarrett

DT

Conyers, GA

Rockdale County

6'0"/282/5.3

3 stars

Jerome Maybank

DT

Pawley's Island, SC

Waccamaw

6'4"/335/NA

2 stars

DeShaun Williams

DT

Central, SC

D. W. Daniel

6'1"/302/5.2

3 stars

 

This season will be one of growth and development.  As you can see, we are heavy with seniors and freshmen with few players in between. Clemson absolutely has to get these younger guys some reps to prepare them for an injury and/or a role next season.  We'll see some drop off here (there is no way around it) because of the players lost to the pro draft and the lack of experience outside of the starters. We'll be fine with the #1's but there are quite a few questions in the two-deep.

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