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Clemson X-Factors: Jayron Kearse

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With an alumni list that includes Da'Quan Bowers, Aaron Kelly, James Davis, C.J. Spiller, and Sammy Watkins, Clemson has had its fair share of household names. This year’s team boasts a star-studded defense headlined by Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett, and Stephone Anthony. That said, instead of focusing on the star players, this seven part series will focus on those who could have big seasons, but remain unproven, and whose success will go a long way in determining the success of the 2014 Clemson Tigers.

Streeter Lecka

Jayron Kearse

Jayron Kearse joined Clemson in 2013 after being recruited by Tony Elliot out of South Fort Myers HS, the same high school as Sammy Watkins. Kearse was a four-star prospect with good speed, size (6'4"), and a long offer list. The nephew of Tennessee Titan DE Jevon Kearse (who starred on Tennessee's 1999 Super Bowl runner-up team and finished with 14.5 sacks that season), began as the back-up to Travis Blanks. As the season progressed, Kearse's role grew until finally Blanks injured his knee against the Citadel. Kearse started three games including the final two against South Carolina and Ohio State.

Because he saw a good amount of playing time (444 snaps) as a true freshman it gave us an opportunity to see both the good and the bad. He finished with 55 tackles, four interceptions (tied for the team lead and tied for 5th in the ACC), and was lauded for his run support and athleticism. Conversely, he made some of the mental mistakes you'd expect from a freshman as he sometimes got too aggressive or didn't display the necessary technique and allowed receivers to sneak behind him. For example:

He also had a handful of miscues in the Orange Bowl that led to long TDs, but he contributed some great plays like the one below as well (jump to 0:40):

We've seen what he's capable of and we know he was highly-rated as a recruit-#16 ATH in the nation. Now it's just a matter of if he is ready to take the next step. Can he avoid the breakdowns that lead to big plays and become one of the better safeties in the the conference. It's certainly possible, given his height, athleticism, and what he's already shown us on the field. He was a true freshman last year, so improvement should be expected. Kearse taking those strides would go a long way towards eliminating Clemson's secondary as a significant weakness.

Also read:
Clemson X-Factors: Joe Gore
Clemson X-Factors: Cordrea Tankersley
Clemson X-Factors: Eric Mac Lain
Clemson X-Factors: Jordan Leggett
Clemson X-Factors: Tony Steward