2012 Position Analysis: Defensive Line with Marion Hobby and Dan Brooks

Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

Marion Hobby was brought on the staff back in January when Chris Rumph decided to leave for the DE position at Alabama, giving the 2011 national champions their third former Clemson assistant on the staff. Hobby was a former DL/DE coach at Clemson until the New Orleans Saints made him an offer after the 19-10 defeat of Colorado in the Tangerine Bowl following the 2005 season. In that year we did notice some improved technique from the Ends and wanted to keep Hobby, but the Saints made too good of an offer. In his 2 years with the Saints he coached DE Will Smith to the Pro Bowl, and in one of those years they made the appearance in the NFC Title game. The Saints went 10-6 and 7-9 in those seasons under Sean Payton, improving from 3-13 in Jim Haslett's final year. He left there and went to Duke under his friend David Cutcliffe as DL coach and Co-DC.

Dan Brooks was another home run hire for Swinney after David Blackwell left for South Florida. He had not been retained on the staff by Lane Kiffin and was in an administrative facilities management role for Tennessee when Steele and Dabo called him up and offered him a job on the field coaching again. His track record includes coaching stops at Florida under Pell and Galen Hall, UNC under Mack Brown, and then Fulmer at UT. At all these places he built up a strong record of recruiting prowess and many times his DL led the ACC/SEC in sacks.

How we evaluate Hobby/Brooks:

  • Recruiting
  • Gap discipline/overpursuit
  • Line technique: pad level, hand usage, etc.
  • Tackling

Well for Brooks, not much needs to be said. He's one of the best damn recruiters of defensive talent in the southeast. He chiefly recruits much of Western NC and from Anson County over to the Outer Banks, parts of Tennessee, and lowerstate SC for Clemson. These are territories he long recruited at Univ. of Tennessee. We would prefer if his NC territory were extended over to Charlotte, to take Pearman the hell out of there.

When he came on staff in April 2009 he brought in Justin Parker, Tra Thomas, and Sam Cooper. Two years ago, Dan Brooks closed up on Stephone Anthony with Coach Steele and brought in top TE Eric MacLain. Brooks also brought in Joe Gore and Robert Smith with Stanton Seckinger, though Seckinger was a late offer directly from Coach Swinney. Coach Brooks offered Jerome Maybank, though he is a Pearman recruit officially.

Last year, Dan Brooks got the DTs we needed in Carlos Watkins and D.J. Reader, along with Center Jay Guillermo from Tennessee. While he's officially credited with re-signee Kevin Dodd in the cycle, we point out that it was Andre Powell who originally offered Dodd and secured his commitment previously. Brooks' biggest miss in the class was the biggest need, elite DE Jonathan Bullard, who we really lost during the official visit.

In the 2013 cycle, Brooks landed DE Dane Rogers, a teammate of Bullard's at Crest HS in Shelby NC. We're also going to give him credit for DT Scott Pagano, as he developed the relationship there among the staff members. He didn't land the best DT in the class, Mont Adams, but that one is an issue for another discussion. Tramel Terry was in his territory but Terry was going to UGA all along.

Marion Hobby has never been thought of as a prime recruiter. He's more of a technique coach, and we expected a slight dropoff from Rumph here. He was given a chunk of Rumph's territory in the lower midlands along with some of the area Powell used to recruit in eastern NC, along with the usual presence in Georgia. He wasn't on staff long enough to build a ton of relationships for the last cycle but did land Martin Aiken and Ronald Geohaghan in his limited time. Hobby was given Todd Gurley but Clemson decided to back off all the RBs once we pulled in Zac Brooks, and going back on them late rarely works out.

In the 2013 cycle, Hobby did a superb job. He replaced the loss of Elijah Daniels with Ebo Ogundeko, a Ricky Sapp-type who could be a good one. He also landed CB Jadar Johnson, and we give him credit for Shaq Lawson, though Lawson is from Daniel HS and would've been coming here anyway. Hobby is also credited with WR Mike Williams.

Though it is not necessarily their faults because we recruit by territory, not position, both coaches need to get the elite DE talent that has eluded us in recruiting.

Defensive End

Prospective 2013 Clemson DE Depth Chart
Strongside Weakside
Tavaris Barnes Corey Crawford
Shaq Lawson Vic Beasley
Byers/Dodd Martin Aiken

2012 Clemson DE Stats
Player Snaps Tackles TFL Sacks Notes
Corey Crawford 575 47 6 1
Malliciah Goodman 622 28 9.5 7 3 sacks against LSU
Vic Beasley 288 18 8 8 3 sacks vs NC State, 2 vs WF
Tavaris Barnes 232 24 2.5 1 only sack occured vs Duke
Kevin Dodd 87 8 0 0
Roderick Byers 54 5 0 0

Above I have listed a preliminary depth chart at End next season, but there will be flux at the backup positions. Several we have on the roster could move inside or tackles could move out to strongside end, which is likely with a new DC’s perspective on players. My main worries going into 2013 are two: who is the every down guy at Weakside, and who will we ever get to produce at SDE?

Ogundeko and Rogers should redshirt at WDE, unless Kevin Dodd is redshirted instead. Of the two, Ebo is more likely, but he would benefit from the RS. No more than 5 are strictly necessary. We'd project Shaq Lawson to play.

We should just go ahead and point out that as bad as this defense was in 2012, these reviews will not be glowing. We also point out that we found out that Hobby was instructing his DEs to use one or two moves in a game, and no more. This teaches them those moves, but leaves them with fewer tools in their belt in games.

Tavaris Barnes really started to stand out compared to Malliciah Goodman at the midseason point, and we asked for him to get more PT. He did get that against the weaker parts of the schedule, but wasn't trusted as much in primetime (15 snaps vs SC, 15 vs FSU, 9 vs VT). As you can see above, he averages more tackles per play than Malliciah by a good margin. He projects as a 3-technique, but hasn't been able to put the weight on to play that spot, and was moved back to DE this past summer. He's not fast off the edge as a pass rusher either. In a perfect world he's more like a 4i technique 3-4 DE. Is he going to develop into a pass rusher? We say no. Can he be servicable against the run game? Yes. Barnes is a guy failed by our own S&C program, but with the training table in place, hopefully that will improve.

Malliciah Goodman lost the excess weight he had been carrying in the previous season, dropping into the 270s in August. We thought that once he lost this weight, his game would get to the next level. It did not. He started out worse than 2011 and steadily got worse until his PT was taken away. By the conclusion of the Georgia Tech game, he had registered 0 sacks and just 2.5 TFL, which he got in the Auburn game. Once his snap count came down, he started to play better, finally learning to hold the edge of the LOS. His best game was his last, where he registered 3 TFL and 3 sacks in 38 snaps. Goodman never developed into what we projected him to be as a freshman, when he had 31 tackles in 329 snaps over the season, with 2 sacks. He never gained any more speed than he had when he came in, and actually became worse at edge control. He's simply too slow and too weak to fight doubles, and his hand usage is too poor to help.

Other than Goodman, the most disappointing man up front has been Corey Crawford. He simply was not ready for full time duty at Weak DE. He's not disciplined enough at gap control, and his pass rush technique was just downright pitiful. A single sack against SC is not going to cut it from the weakside pass-rushing spot. I think that unless he really steps up that part of his game, he is going to be forced to SDE. I would not be surprised if that happens this spring, but it requires someone to step up and be ready as an every down WDE.

When we saw what Vic Beasley could do off the edge in the spring game, I was pretty excited. I figured in the best-case scenario we'd be able to use him like Barkevious Mingo was used when he was starting out as an underweight DE. I knew he would need to be into the 250-260lb range to play a lot, and he didn't quite get there in 2012. If he does this summer, he starts in 2013. He has electric speed off the edge. After Auburn, he showcased very few moves and was just terrible at gap control. He'd jump into the B-gap when his job is C, and someone just runs right where he is supposed to be. However, he picked up that he was doing it wrong and his pass rush skills started to improve 3/4 of the way through the season. In a 4-game span from WF to NC State, he racked up 6 sacks. If the training table is being run correctly, and accountability is being enforced, VB is next in line to be drafted by the NFL off the Clemson DL. He has the speed to go in the 1st round, its just a question of how he develops and his own work ethic to get there.

Kevin Dodd came in from Hargrave and usually we do not RS the guys who spent a year there already, like DeAndre McDaniel, Jonathan Meeks, or Martavis Bryant. Dodd was very raw in HS and late to the game of football, and was essentially a camp find by Andre Powell. Dodd needed another year of organized football and probably should've redshirted. According to his snap count, one would say he definitely needed a RS. If a freshman cannot come in and get 100-150 snaps, then his year spent really wasn't worth it. Our roster management is interesting as always.

Rod Byers was a NSD offer-commit that we decided to take at the last minute, stealing him from Oregon. I saw him in HS and thought he could play, and he spent a year on RS. He projects more as a 3-technique or another 4i-tech 3-4 DE, so if he can put the weight on, he could move back and forth from 3 to SDE. Clemson currently lists him as a Tackle. The problem at DT is that there are good players ready today who are better than him. He'll have a hard time beating out his classmates Reader and Carlos Watkins, or Jarrett/Watson/Williams. If he's going to contribute, it will have to be at SDE. He'll need to gain more weight either way, and become more physical at the POA and quicker. Shaq Lawson may be more talented, but Byers can make his impression in 2013 if he's going to do so.

We haven't heard a lot about Martin Aiken, other than that the staff is pretty high on him. He's caused havoc in scout team drills and appeared to hold his own a few times in Oklahoma Drills. He'll come off RS and if he can play, they need to go back and RS Dodd and let him have another year of development.

Defensive Tackle

Prospective 2013 Defensive Tackle Depth
2i 3-technique
Grady Jarrett DeShawn Williams
D.J. Reader Josh Watson
Tra Thomas Carlos Watkins

Scott Pagano**

**-assuming no RS

2012 Clemson DT Stats
Player Snaps Tackles TFL Sacks Notes
Josh Watson 461 54 3.5 3 4 batted pass attempts
DeShawn Williams 370 50 5 2
Grady Jarrett 512 49 8.5 2 10 tackles vs GT
D.J. Reader 236 40 0 0
Carlos Watkins 113 16 1 0 Did not play in 4 games
Tra Thomas 11 1 0 0

Clemson adjusted its primary fronts this past season to what we term a "G" front, with a 2i and 3 technique DT as opposed to the previous Under/Over (NG & 3) front. I think a big contributor to this is that we have no true War Daddy NG on the roster, capable of handling doubles every play, because the Under is a prominent front in the Stoops style of 4-3 defense. As such, the lines between the two DT positions are blurred and you can usually play both.

Clemson's run defense was bad this year, but it did get better. I directly attribute the improvement to improved play at LB and the DT positions. During the BC game, the DTs really started to put things together. They started to snatch blocks better, they used their hands much better, and their pads tended to stay lower. They are still inconsistent, and we need a little more interior pass rush, but I'm confident this group can continue to improve going forwards.

We did not think that Josh Watson would play as well this year as he showcased. Due to a back injury, he didn't develop quite as quickly as most guys who come in from Hargrave, and really wasn't impressive when he played the last two spring games. He picked it up in the weight room and his on-field game picked up as well. I think he can be a viable 3-technique for the future, though he may need to work on getting off blocks more consistently. We could say this about nearly all the DTs when you evaluate the whole season -- some games they're on, some off.

The two who stand out, even though their statistics don't really show it, are Jarrett and Reader. Both are a little undersized but both have high motors, which is more important to me than their height. Usually one of them was playing his ass off in a game during the second half of the season. Jarrett may still need to do some work on changing his body type, and we'll see if the training table helps him. If he cuts off some flab he'll be even better than he is today. D.J. won't have to worry about getting too fat playing for Jack Leggett, but I do think he needs to focus his attention on football because he has a higher ceiling there. We promised him he could play baseball but I think he should be able to see that he has a great shot at NFL play someday if he focuses on football.

DeShawn Williams did produce where we hoped, and Tra Thomas played as much as we expected. Look for him to move to offense or he should be trimmed from the roster. Carlos Watkins played 113 snaps, and its debatable whether he should've redshirted. He played nearly everywhere for Chase HS and needed focused DL coaching. We need to get at least 100-150 snaps for any freshman or its pretty much a wasted year. With his talent, and the uncertainty at DT coming into this year, I see why they didn't redshirt him. His snaps came primarily after FSU, and he did not play at all vs Auburn, FSU, SC and only 3 snaps vs LSU.

We complained about the distribution of snaps at DT last year, and believe the fatigue of playing 700 snaps hurt both Rennie Moore and Brandon Thompson. This season the staff made the changes to the rotations and spread them out much more evenly. We now have some depth here for 2013.

The staff garnered a single commitment from Scott Pagano, a big 3-technique power rusher from Hawaii. Physically he could come in and play, but because of the numbers ahead of him, I don't see the need for him to play. You only need a 2-deep and a 5th swing player. Ideally he redshirts in 2013.

Technique

When coaches look at hand usage, it often comes down to being able to "shoot your hands". Shooting the hands means that you want to stay low and make contact with the OLineman with your arms fully extended. The idea is to create separation between yourself in the the blocker, because if you don't, he can pull you in to him and control you. Usually the sled is the way a coach instructs this technique. In many games last year where we failed to get sufficient pass rush, hand usage was a primary factor. Where they shoot the hands (inside or outside numbers normally) depends on their alignment, but its also essential to keep the back straight and pads lower than the opponent. That helps you control your assigned gap, and that is what makes a good run defense. We've written several posts on pass-rush techniques and handling blocks and tackling that covers this in more detail. Our defensive linemen, since we run an attacking 4-3, are not charged with eating blockers just to keep the LBs free. They are charged with holding their gap and pressing the pocket inside. The Ends are meant to get the majority of sacks and control the edge of the defense to prevent those outside stretch plays, sweeps, or other off-tackle runs from getting around. While I felt that we had a few good games in edge control, particularly later in the year, this was horrid overall, and that falls chiefly on the DEs. The inability to hold the edge really killed us in the first half of the season.

When it comes to containment on the edge, the DE has to learn to keep his outside shoulder and leg free when the blocker tries to hook him. When he doesn't do that, he gets knocked out of his gap, makes a bad decision to pass rush into the B-gap, or doesn't read his key properly, and you have bad gap control. There are several drills to teach this; it is fundamental DE/OLB instruction. The idea is to teach him to keep one side of his body free and concentrate only on one blocker at a time, and to use his hands to attack cut blocks. That will help him spill the ballcarrier to one side and hopefully to a LB/DB in support. When have you seen a Clemson player at any defensive position handle a cut block properly lately?

Pass rush fundamentals from the DEs was hit/miss. In some games, Vic Beasley would show some very nice moves to go with his elite DE speed. In some others, he was clueless on what to do with his hands. Goodman's motor wasn't even registering for half the season, and would be tied up with his blocker instead of pushing the pocket. We could say the same for Crawford. I was told that the Ends were instructed to use one or two moves in a game and focus on those until they mastered one, and in the 2nd half of the year they were allowed more free reign on what move to use. Either way, this is an area Hobby has to do work on.

But I was impressed at how the fundamentals improved this year up front, moreso at DT than DE. If we can handle the run better on the strong side, and play smart on the weakside, I think the run defense will improve in '13 over 2012.

The Verdict

I still think Dan Brooks is the best combo of coach + recruiter on the staff. I don't think he did a great job in 2011 but he did in 2012, and he earned that paycheck. The snap counts were distributed well to develop depth for '13.

From Hobby's previous stint here, we already had the opinion that he was a good technique coach. He did a good job recruiting for us this year. I don't know what the issue was with Goodman or Crawford's lack of pass rush development in the last couple seasons, but we need to see serious improvement in the pass rush to be a good defense. We may not be able to hold him responsible if some guys don't gain the weight they need to play their spots, but he has to help instill that work ethic and hold his guys accountable if they don't put the effort in with the weight room/training table.

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