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2010 Position Analysis: Defensive Line under Chris Rumph and Dan Brooks

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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.

Many people have complained about Rumph's lack of quicker development at the DE position and do not consider him a great recruiter. I do not subscribe to those complaints. While I do think his replacement is an upgrade in terms of coaching ability, I will not say that we definitely won't miss Rumph here. Continuity on the staff is something that rarely gets the credit deserved.

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.

How we will evaluate Rumph/Brooks

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

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 (N/NE Florida mostly) and Georgia (Atlanta, as nearly all our coaches do) 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 2009 DBs Bashaud Breeland and Garry Peters. Its possible he could've gotten us DE Dexter Morant, had Kornblut not blown the whistle on the OV. In 2011 he got Cortez Davis, Grady Jarrett, and star RB Martin Lane committed to us, though we pulled Lane's offer during the process. He missed on legacy LB Terrance Smith, but there are other issues at play in this case.

Because we have criticized other coaches for not bringing in the talent they could, we do point out that he has been the "recruiter of record" for a small handful of players at Clemson and he is charged with a rather high number of prospects in the territories he has been given. He seems to have a jovial personality that hits with some, and doesn't register on the radar with others, but I do think he's become a stronger recruiter here.

Well for Brooks, not much needs to be said here. He chiefly recruits much of Western NC and from Anson County over to the Outer Banks, parts of Tennessee, and lower 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, if Harbison's isn't. Its possible some of his territory in the lowcountry is altered with the addition of Tony Elliott (from Charleston) and the loss of Rumph (St. Matthews area/Midlands) and Powell (Triangle area of NC).

Last 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. Key players Brooks missed out on included DT Ethan Farmer and OLB Darius Lipford (both to UNC).

This cycle, Dan Brooks closed up on Stephone Anthony with Coach Steele and brought in top TE Eric MacLain. Brooks brought in Joe Gore and Robert Smith with Stanton Seckinger. Seckinger was a late offer from Coach Swinney. Coach Brooks offered Jerome Maybank, though he is a Pearman recruit officially. Coach Brooks missed out on arguably the biggest need of the class in OT Brandon Shell from Goose Creek. Shell, like Dukes, is a bit of a homebody and ignored his Uncle's advice to go to Alabama.

We're still scratching our heads over the offer of Jerome Maybank vs. not offering Rivals100 Member OLB Ben Councell from Asheville NC, who Rivals says would've committed if offered. Councell committed to Notre Dame.

Altogether Dan Brooks is an awesome recruiter, but the offer system is puzzling.

Defensive End

2011 Clemson Defensive End Depth Chart
Strongside Bandit
Malliciah Goodman Andre Branch
Corey Crawford Kourtnei Brown
Tavaris Barnes Chris Richardson

Above I have separated the players projected for next year by their respective positions, but behind the starters there is definite flux possible. I have not accounted for incoming freshman Joe Gore (who I believe will end up at OT), because he should redshirt no matter which side he starts out on. I do know Richardson plays Bandit, but we do not expect to actually see him on the field unless theres a blowout. I have left Barnes at SDE, though he could end up at the 3T or play Bandit initially. I do ultimately project Crawford to be the 2nd team End on the strongside, given his 6'6" 275 frame. If Barnes comes along, this would allow them to try him at Bandit instead of Brown. The addition of Clowney, if by some bizarre chance this happens, would throw a wrench into Brown's projected playing time first.

Obviously a lot depends on how well Kourtnei Brown and Malliciah Goodman improve under Coach Hobby's tutelage as to who gets the biggest number of snaps going forward.

2010 Clemson DE Stats
Player Snaps Tackles TFL Sacks
Da'Quan Bowers 633 67 25 15.5
Andre Branch 600 49 5.5 4
Malliciah Goodman 329 31 3 1
Kourtnei Brown 201 16 2 0
Chris Richardson 49 1 0 0

Compare this to last year's stats at DE from the primary 4 players:

2009 Clemson DE Stats
Player Snaps Tackles TFL Sacks
Ricky Sapp 656 60 15 5
Da'Quan Bowers 475 58 11 3
Andre Branch 337 46 8 2
Malliciah Goodman 329 31 5 2

Note that Da'Quan missed several games late last year due to the injury, but was also substituted more because the staff felt Goodman earned the reps and that Bowers took plays/games off.

This year there was very little of that at all. Bowers did not impress much against BC or SC, but the stigma that he took days off was largely erased. He was unblockable by most of our opponents, broke the sack record, and won a much-deserved Nagurski Award. We have only praise for Da'Quan because he finally learned to simply let things come to him and kept his intensity level where it should be to play NFL football. If you play your assignment in the scheme without trying to tackle everyone on the field, good things happen. Rarely was Bowers not in his assigned gap and his commitment to improving is what will make him a 1st round pick.

I have always held the belief that when a guy is taught well, he has the tools to reach his potential. The difference between the guys that really take it to the fullest extent is within themselves -- its not physical or a 100% direct product of good coaching. A coach can't take coal and make a 14kt diamond, not by himself. A coach can't make you train extra hours or watch more film. All he can do is teach you how to do the things your body can do and try to instill the work ethic he thinks you need. Chris Rumph taught Bowers what it takes to get to that next level, but the credit for getting there goes to DaQuan. When you are a 1st round pick, it comes from your own motivation and hard work, not your coach. Bowers lost his friend Gaines Adams and his father, so I'm going to give Rumph credit for teaching him what he needs, but Bowers deserves the credit for raising his game. I don't think a coach makes a guy into a 1st round pick, the player himself does.

Andre Branch has an attitude and a swagger that we wished was more prevalent on our defense. He's a guy that reminds us of the players who played for us in the '80s in that sense. Unfortunately as you can see, his production dropped this year. His snaps nearly doubled and the number of tackles, TFL, and sacks did not go up. While I think its fair to point out that Bowers took up some of those sack/TFL stats by being in the backfield almost immediately, Andre should've done better than he did. In terms of his fundamentals, what I see is that they are fine. I just don't see the tenacity he had last year as often. He must work on taking blockers better with his hands and pad level instead of trying to out-athlete the OT. Basic speed rushes without proper hand usage do not result in sacks at our level as much.

In limited action as a LB in a 3-4 set, Branch did very well. Bandit is a direct crossover to an OLB position because it requires you to be able to understand weak-side pass patterns and RB coverage moreso than strongside, so its not altogether surprising. I would expect us to show a few more 30 front looks next year because of this however, particularly since I believe we'll need to be more inventive up front to create pass rush. I do not predict Clemson will go 3-4 base, but we will show it more.

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 really should've been RS'd as a freshman. When we wrote this last year we predicted him to get 300 snaps in 2010. He does have the athleticism to succeed here. What we don't see, however, is much technique or gap discipline. Kourtnei overpursues plays and leaves his assigned gap instead of letting plays come to him. He doesnt use his eyes. Block down step down is almost nonexistent at times. Pass rush technique, even on the speed rush that should be his forte, is not good. I think highly of Coach Hobby but I don't believe Brown will acheive his potential at End. I look for a youngster to take some of his snaps.

Malliciah Goodman really impressed us last year as a true frosh. Again I point out that Bowers took some snaps back from him with his higher motor this fall. He didn't progress much as you can see from the stats above, and suffers from the same issues that Kourtnei does. Pad level stays too high and hand usage needs work in fighting blockers. I think he put on weight that we weren't informed about as well. I distinctly recall many times where Malliciah left his gap and overpursued a play that cutback right where he was supposed to be. He does not read screen plays well, but that did improve as the season progressed. However, he is young with good foot speed, and if he wants to be the next Clemson DE to become a early-round pick, I think he can get there. He just needs some coaching on his technique.

Defensive Tackle

Prospective 2011 Defensive Tackle Depth
Nose 3-technique
Brandon Thompson Rennie Moore
Tyler Shatley/Tra Thomas Josh Watson
DeShaun Williams** Kevin Dodd**
Grady Jarrett**/Jerome Maybank** Roderick Byers**

**-assuming no redshirt. Only 5 or 6 actually need to play.

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 when his motor is on full. 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 strongside 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 the LB, which keeps him free to make the tackles.

2010 DT Stats
Player Snaps Tackles TFL Sacks
Jarvis Jenkins 495 51 9 1
Brandon Thompson 489 53 7.5 1
Miguel Chavis 218 27 1 0
Rennie Moore 289 25 6 2
Tyler Shatley 120 11 1.5 1

For comparison:

2009 DT Stats
Player Snaps Tackles TFL Sacks
Jarvis Jenkins 536 69 11 1
Brandon Thompson 523 50 2 0
Jamie Cumbie 364 53 4.5 2.5
Miguel Chavis 315 28 1.5 1.5
Rennie Moore 198 22 5.5 2.5

While Thompson's problems are that he runs himself out of his gap at times, Jenkins' primary malfunction is that some days his motor doesn't run and so he disappears. I thought I'd see more sack production and TFL this year than we did. He just doesn't appear to be a good pass rusher. I think his motor doesn't run at full speed all the time. When he's on, he has great speed for a big guy and he pushes the pocket but doesn't make the big play. I can recall a couple times where the coaches visibly jumped on his case during a game for not playing hard, and he would flip the switch and dominate. He'll produce in the Combine workouts and could be a mid-rounder in the NFL Draft.

In the Spring game I noticed Rennie Moore's motor coming on much more than it had before, and if that motor stays high next year we will be fine without Jarvis against the pass. He's a better pass rusher but not as good in run support. He'll have to stay disciplined in his gap and use his leverage better to do so. That high motor was hit/miss this fall and many times he was invisible on the field.

Chavis is clearly a notch below Thompson and Jenkins in talent but he did raise his play this year after we lost Cumbie. He missed 3 games, which accounts for some of the snap differences above. He played much harder and should've been redshirted as a freshman, if that had happened then he'd probably crack 400 snaps next year.

All of the 4 primary guys here are fine tacklers. Chavis occasionally gets too high and loses his position, but can recover with his improved strength.

Shatley is more worrisome. He really was no match for some of his opponents up front this year. I don't think he maintains his 2nd string position here going further, but he will play. I'd figure 250 snaps or thereabouts for Shatley in 2011. Tra Thomas is someone we'll be watching closely in the Spring game.

Josh Watson enrolled early from Hargrave last January and due to his rather low weight for DT and a back injury, he redshirted. His injury is hopefully healed up enough to allow him to put on some mass to play in the trenches. Early word to us from practices though is that he may be a miss in evaluation. We'll be watching him closely in the Spring game as well.

Incoming Help: All of the incoming class are likely to redshirt unless the 5 ahead of them stink it up. Kevin Dodd is a bit more of a project but also has the most upside. Unfortunately he's a projection to Fork Union. Rod Byers is a good player but may need to add some mass to play inside. DeShaun Williams is a Nose along with Jarrett and Maybank. Maybank should end up at OG, but he and Jarrett must change their body composition to play.

What we mean by techniques will be explained in future posts, but this is an introduction:

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.

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 bad gap control like the first half of the BC game. The gist 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, and to use his hands to attack cuts. That will help him spill the ballcarrier to one side and hopefully to a LB.

Overall, the Line tackled extremely well. One of the best nationally. End was especially good, with Bowers rarely missing anyone within his considerable range. Branch rarely misses anyone he can get to. Most of our problems with missing tackles up front came from guys taking a bad angle and overpursuit/running themselves out of the play.

If anything, the intermittent problems we had on the line this year came from a lack of intensity. Some bad gap discipline cost us big plays against Auburn. Miami was able to push them backwards on their 1st drive for a TD, and then they awakened. The D sleepwalked against Boston College in the 1st half, and it was moreso the fault of the DL than any other position. Lack of intensity really disappointed me in the Bowl game, USF's front should've had no chance against our guys. When its the entire line, it falls on the coaching staff.

The Verdict

Overall, Coach Rumph was a pretty good coach and recruiter. Whether you give more credit to the players he has developed or to his coaching is your own right, and I realize that some technique has been lacking (vs just using athleticism to run around guys), but I keep coming back to the problem we've had here for years: CU doesn't develop most of the talent we have. The fact that Rumph has cranked out high draft picks without solid leadership from Clemson's head coach/administration speaks for his ability. We wish him luck at Alabama.

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.

Coach Brooks may have to take it upon himself to go find some talented Tackles to work with in the future.