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Position Analysis: Defensive Line with Chris Rumph and Dan Brooks

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Dan Brooks was another home run hire for Swinney back in April 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.

A Native of Sparta NC, and his primary responsibility was recruiting the Western NC/SC areas for Tennessee, where he stole Shaun Ellis (Mauldin), Albert Haynesworth (Hartsville), four-star lineman Terrea Smalls (Timberland), and highly regarded linemen Anthony McDaniel of Columbia, William Brimsfield of Neeses, plus touted athletes Jeff Coleman, Ikie Curry, and Dominique Stevenson (Gaffney), just to name a few. I hated that those Gaffney players left the state, especially Coleman.

Chris Rumph, a former Gamecock player from St. Matthews SC, overcame the clear lack of intelligence it requires to choose USC and has become a valuable assistant coach directly in charge of Defensive Ends. His first coaching job was as GA at SC, then HC/OC at Calhoun County HS, then SC State (DBs), Memphis (OLBs), and finally Clemson in 2006. Since coming to Clemson, he has supervised the growth of Gaines Adams, Phil Merling, Dorrell Scott, and future draftees Ricky Sapp and Da'Quan Bowers.

How we will evaluate Brooks and Rumph

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

Well for Brooks, not much needs to be said here. He chiefly recruits much of Western NC and from Anson County over to the Ocean, parts of Tennessee, and lower SC for Clemson. This year since coming on staff in April he brought in Justin Parker, Tra Thomas, Sam Cooper, and Ricky Chaney. That was more than Steele got with an extra 3 months on the job. Players Brooks missed out on included DT Ethan Farmer and OLB Darius Lipford (both to UNC), OL James Stone (Tenn), LB Alfy Hill (Bammer), and LB Ferlando Bohanna (Miss State). Although I don't recall whether we were in it with Stone and Hill, Bohanna is one we had on the radar as late as January but apparently backed away from.

For 2011, Brooks will be going for Stephone Anthony and Brandon Shell, both huge targets. I have confidence that Brooks will surprise us and get the ones we need along with someone we arent hearing about yet.

Chris Rumph might not be on the same level as a recruiter as Brooks, but he's a good recruiter in his own right. He's charged with his hometown area around Calhoun County, which is probably the only way Clemson could ever get players from this die-hard coot area, and parts of Florida and Georgia for Clemson. All of these areas are talent-laden regions stocked with recruits where we compete with all the big boys. In 2007, his first year on staff as a recruiter, he brought in Andre Branch. In 2008 it was Dwayne Allen, and this year DBs Bashaud Breeland and Garry Peters. In 2011 he's got Cortez Davis and star RB Martin Lane already, and is after Clemson legacy LB Terrance Smith among others.

Altogether we've got a good tandem recruiting here. However, because we've criticized other coaches for not bringing in as much talent as they could, we have to acknowledge that Rumph has only been the "official" recruiter for 4 players coming into Clemson.

Clemson 2010 DL Depth Chart
Da'Quan Bowers Jarvis Jenkins Brandon Thompson Andre Branch
Malliciah Goodman Jamie Cumbie Miguel Chavis Kourtnei Brown
Darrell Smith ** Rennie Moore Tyler Shatley Corey Crawford *
Josh Watson* Tra Thomas* Tavaris Barnes*

*-assuming no redshirt, **-could be moved to TE

Above I have separated the interior linemen by what they normally play (1 or 3 tech, strongside/weakside) but some of them play both.

2009 DL Stats
Player Snaps Total Tackles TFL Sacks FF/Rec
Jarvis Jenkins 536 69 11 1 0/1
Ricky Sapp 656 60 15 5 1
Da'Quan Bowers 475 58 11 3 1/1
Jamie Cumbie 364 53 4.5 2.5 0
Brandon Thompson 523 50 2 0 0
Andre Branch 337 46 8 2 0
Malliciah Goodman 329 31 5 2 0

Miguel Chavis

Rennie Moore











Note: Left off minor players who played less than 50 snaps.

Starting with the interior linemen, theres a clear separation between the first 3 guys in the rotation (Jenkins, Thompson, Cumbie) and the rest. I truly believe Brandon Thompson might be one of the best interior linemen to come through here if he would continue to apply himself and work on technique. As a Nose, he's nearly unstoppable. At times he was seen to overpursue, and sometimes he's so good at jumping through the A-gap that he simply outruns the play: the RB is already past him and Brandon doesn't get a hand on him.

As a Nose Tackle, he's not really intended to make the tackles and sacks. The 3-technique tackle generally makes more sacks than the nose. Its the Nose's job to eat 2 blockers and control his gap. In the UNDER front we play, the shade nose guard plays off the shoulder of the Center and aligns in the A-gap, sometimes slanted towards the Center. The reason for this is that he will end up controlling both A-gaps if he can knock the Center backwards or squeeze him against the Guard to the other side. This causes most teams to double-team the NT, because the Center is usually the weakest blocker. Having 2 OL tied up means one less OL to hit a LB, which keeps them free to make the tackles.

Jarvis Jenkins also started out the season very well, and is similarly unstoppable up front, when he wants to be. While Thompson's problems are that he runs himself out of his gap at times, Jenkins' primary malfunction is that some days he disappears. Both tailed off in production at the end of last season, with sloppier technique, pad leverage, and hand usage and being pushed out of their gaps or simply running out of them.While Cumbie is very good with gap control and his fundamentals, he doesn't have the first step of Jenkins and is not quite the playmaker, but would start nearly everywhere else in the ACC.

Miguel Chavis is clearly a notch behind that group at the Nose. Chavis probably should've been redshirted as a freshman as well to put on weight, and his hip flexibility needs some work along with his first step. He gets stood up far too much. Rennie Moore does a pretty good job considering the few snaps he gets, and will push for a 2nd-team rotation spot this year.

Dan Brooks revealed that both put on weight during the season and both have currently slimmed back down with Thompson at 295 and Jenkins around 300.

"Jarvis and Brandon are like me in that they like to eat. I thought they got a little bit heavy towards the end, Brandon got up to about 308 pounds. Jarvis was at one point up to 318. I think they might have lost a half-step last year on making a play here or there. By them losing the weight and having a good winter, it shows us that they don't feel they've arrived."

Uh, what? Do you realize how many calories these big guys are eating to put on that much weight during a season? You have to eat around 3000 just to feed a 300lb man. Thats like eating 2 Papa John's Large pepperoni pizzas per day. Its no wonder they got a step slower and lost some flexibility in the hips (pad leverage). These kids go to class, practice a few hours daily, and do still do some lifting, and then played on weekends and STILL gained weight. If thats not an indictment of the S/C program and our lack of a good nutrition program, I don't know what is.

Kourtnei Brown played 286 snaps in 2008 and added some bulk to his frame before last season, but was so far down the depth chart that he decided to take the redshirt in 2009. He had quick feet and was a good athlete at DE, but his fundamentals needed work as he was very raw. He should've been RS'd as a freshman. Now he's back in the rotation at Weakside End with Andre Branch. He has the natural talent to beat Branch for the job, and will almost certainly get into the 300 snap range.

Rumph: "Just looking at him, you can tell he really took advantage of his red-shirt year. He's put on some pounds. He's about 255, close to 260. He's just as fast or faster. Also, one of the things that he worked on was his toughness. He came from a private school, a small school and it was mainly a basketball situation. This off-season he was put in situations where he had to be tough. He was forced to be tough and it paid off. He's probably the most athletic guy in that room. He's 6-4, 6-5, can run like the wind and do it all. Coming in he was a little green, just understanding the game of football. He understands his role better. His toughness overall, taking on blocks, he's improved there."

Branch made strides last spring and really put together a solid season with the increased PT that came his way when Bowers was injured. He plays with considerable fire and hustle and a type of swagger that Clemson used to have on defense in the '80s. I thought at the end of the year that he played better than Bowers did at End, though he doesnt possess the speed of Bowers or Sapp. If he works on the technique he does have NFL potential. We were pleased with the improvement that Branch showed over the course of the year, giving Clemson tremendous depth on the outside. What is most impressive is his desire to play his best each and every down he is on the field.

On Branch's late season progression:

Rumph: "It was huge. If you look back at those games, he was one of the guys who made a big play or a big tackle in every game from start to finish. He's a big motor guy, a big effort guy. Sometimes he's probably not as fluid-looking as Ricky or Da'Quan, but when you look at productivity, he's right up there with them. He's a natural leader. He still has to mature. This winter has been really good for him. I've seen a difference in him. He's trying to lead and trying to get those guys to follow him. I'm really pleased with where he's at right now."

Da'Quan is either on or off, like Jenkins, and like Gaines Adams was as an underclassman. If you watch film you'll see what opponents do to take him out of games, and his immense speed off the corner (other than the games after he came back from the knee problem). Our opponents do respect his ability. But when he isn't playing hard, he's very average. His pass rush technique is good when he wants to get a sack, yet he doesnt use his functional strength when he isn't pushed to take over a game. If he does learn to play hard every down like Gaines did, and gets his bulk under control, he'll be a 1st Rd pick.

"He's got to get healthy. His knee needs to get stronger. He needs to lose some weight. He's down to about 280 now. I think 275 is his ideal weight. I think at 275 he can still maintain his power and be a step quicker than he was last year when he played at 285, 290. I don't think he's having any problems with his knee now. I just don't think he's trusting it yet.

I don't think the number is as important as his conditioning. NFL Ends regularly sit in the 275-290 range. Julius Peppers for example is in the 280s. I somehow doubt Bowers was a fit 285-290 though.

But if Bowers doesnt pick it up, Goodman will end up taking more of his PT away. His motor runs hard and he makes up for some leverage (he needs to stay lower) and hand placement with his footspeed. Goodman got over 300 snaps last year, which is quite a number for a freshman.

Ricky Sapp is a guy who always had trouble putting on weight. An End needs to be over 250-260 to play in the NFL, more likely 275, and Sapp always had trouble getting there and staying there. After leaving Clemson and getting off our S/C program, he apparently found a way to put on weight quickly.

One player that’s returned from injury with greater success is Clemson’s Ricky Sapp. The Tigers defensive star tore an ACL in his right knee during the late part of his junior campaign in 2008. Eight months after surgery he was back on the field for practice, though his injury was not completely healed. Sources told us Sapp was playing on a knee that was just 65% last season. Clemson did not properly rehabilitate the knee and as a result his right quadriceps muscle was not properly working. At the end of the season Sapp started consulting with a specialist from New York city to alleviate the situation. During the interim he missed the Senior Bowl because of lingering effects. A letter went out to all 32 NFL franchises alerting them of the situation. Right now Sapp’s knee is about 99% and he is expected to be at full strength by the time he takes to the field at Lucas Oil Stadium one week from Monday for his combine workout. Sapp’s weight stands around 254-pounds, about ten more than he played at last season.

I find it odd that they mention 65%, when all we heard from the staff and Sapp was that he was a monster and really healed well, and was in the 90% range by August camp. Also, the first part of the season was good for him. Still though, it appears the NFL gushes over his athleticism as I expected.

Whether his weight was really a problem last season, I couldn't definitively say. He was victim of several holding calls that I felt were flagrantly holds down the stretch, some could be avoided with mass, but mostly its technique (keeping arms extended). Right now he'll be slated for an OLB position in the NFL in a 3-4 defense, probably a JACK LB (weakside OLB, DeMarcus Ware plays JACK). It just seemed to us like he disappeared for a large stretch of the season towards the end. He overpursued plays quite often and lost containment on the backside of some misdirection and orbit motion plays. His pass rush technique got a little sloppy and his gap control was poor against several teams we played towards the end of the year. 5 sacks was a disappointment and not to lead the line in tackles is one as well. Your 3T should not be leading the DL in tackles.

The videos below highlight some of the techniques we're talking about. We'll expand on this information over the down time this summer.

Defensive Line/End Pass Rush Techniques

The Rip Technique

Swat & Swim Technique

When coaches look at hand usage, it comes down to some of the things in these videos as well as 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 (e.g., TCU).

When it comes to containment drills, you run a DL with OL set 5 yards apart (like an Oklahoma drill) with a FB blocker and a RB behind him aligned to the defender's left (like an offset I-form). The DL 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, or doesn't read his key properly, and you have games like South Carolina this year. The rest of the drill involves that FB trying to cut block and the RB trying to evade to the right side. The idea is to teach him to keep one side of his body free and concentrate only on one blocker at a time.

Overall, the Line tackles very well. We could take a few better angles from End and the backside contain could be more disciplined but it wasn't a major issue this year, moreso LB. As mentioned above, Thompson could run himself into a bad angle for a tackle, but Bowers, Sapp, and Jenkins were rarely seen to not wrap-up when they got near someone. Chavis and Cumbie were also pretty good tacklers, Cumbie especially because he doesn't quit on plays.

The Verdict - Both are good recruiters, and their track record of putting guys where they need to be up front and then getting them to the NFL speaks for itself, so they've got the historical currency to be forgiven for bad years if/when they come. Right now though, we have 3 guys who will play NFL ball, likely 4. Not many teams in the country can say that.

This past year we started out awesome, but at midseason they clearly looked less-motivated and tentative about their assignments in gap control. They were too eager to make plays themselves. We noticed some of these guys playing a little too "high" late in the year, . If the gap control improves then you'll see Clemson LBs more free to make plays and it will become apparent to most that the LB corp has improved, when in reality it could be just that the DL did. Unless you watch much film, you wouldn't pick it up.

But other than a conditioning problem, theres not much fault to be found with the Line.