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Clemson Football Season Preview: Defensive Backs


After an abysmal 2012, Clemson's secondary showed some improvement in 2013. While there were still some glaring problems, such as inability to tackle properly or a basic understanding of 9th grade geometry, they were able to prevent things from getting too ugly. The real problems came on giving up the big plays (takes big sip of bourbon), hopefully that changes this year.


Mackenzie Alexander (Mack 2) - You’ve probably seen the high school film. You’ve heard all the hype. Now, we finally get to see the gem of our 2013 recruiting class, and ESPNs #4 ranked recruit in the nation, on the field. As a 5 Star recruit, he was the total package in high school. On film, he showed a combination of speed, leg strength, and ball skills we haven’t seen here in 4 years. He can close on runners and tackle. He can defeat stalk blocks. He has good instincts. However, that’s just on the high school level. Can he do it on a Saturday evening in Athens, GA? I can’t wait to find out.

Cordrea Tankersley (Tootie) – Along with T.J. Green and Ben Boulware, Tankersley was one of our best special teams players last year. He’s 6’1" which gives him the size and length advantage over Jenkins. From what I understand, he is a natural CB and has found a permanent home there.

Garry Peters (The Gambler) - In 2012, at Boston College, Venables finally inserted 4 star CB Garry Peters into a game and WHOA! We got us a player. That game, he solidified a weak-spot in Clemson’s defense that was much needed and appeared to be an instant upgrade. He had the game sealing INT in the 4th Quarter against BC and my hopes went way up for him. Since then, we’ve gotten some glimpses of why Venables waited so long to get him in the mix. He is confident and athletic, but his instincts are hit or miss. He’s just an inconsistent player. His technique is marginal, but he is very good at baiting the QB and jumping routes. He’s "The Gambler" in the secondary. However, I like my route jumper types to look less like Bobby Boucher and more like Antonio Cromartie when they try to intercept the ball. He could probably make an All-ACC team if he had better ball skills.

Martin Jenkins (The Fire Ant) – Jenkins is tough, sound and probably the best tackler we have returning in the secondary. He looked like the starting CB of the future near the end of 2011. He is small, though, and that is probably the reason the coaching staff has never made him a full time starter. Well, that and injuries. He constantly deals with an ailment. He missed 2012 with a hernia issue and will be playing from now on with an arthritic condition in his back and pelvis. He also hasn’t shown good ball skills to date, but he is smart and a solid technician. I like this guy. I want him to have a healthy senior season and we can watch him fulfill on the promise he showed in 2011.

Adrian Baker - The redshirt freshman had a lot of promise on his HS film and with a redshirt year at Clemson the hope is that he can contribute this year. With Alexander, Tankersley, Peters, and Jenkins ahead of him he probably won't see a huge number of snaps, but he's definitely a guy to keep in mind for the future.

Ryan Carter - I'm not even going to get started here, it is early in the morning and drinking is frowned upon at work.

Marcus Edmond - This redshirt freshman is another one for the future, if you will. He's going to get some snaps, especially if we continue to dominate the scrub teams.

Strong Safety

Robert Smith - By all accounts Smith is going to be the starter at SS this year. Statistically he was Clemson's top safety in 2013, which isn't a great thing. Smith is what we would refer to as a squad player in soccer. He's unspectacular, can get a job done, but he isn't your first choice to start at a position. That said, he does have experience and will be looked at to provide leadership for this secondary. Maybe he will have a monster year.

T.J. Green - It isn't great when a guy making the switch from WR to safety is your backup, but hopefully it just shows how much Green has learned over the spring. He will certainly get some time on the field, but we can only hope it comes against the scrub teams more often than not. While Green isn't one of the 5-heart Dabo's, he was a recruit out of Alabama that was all Dabo, not exactly the most inspiring thing. That said, Green is a bit of an athlete and if his ability to find the ball on offense translates well, we could be in for a good surprise.

Free Safety

Jayron Kearse - The sophomore had a solid season as freshman last year, but the coaching staff is expecting him to take the next step this year. Unfortunately, it seems like the light isn't fully on and Jadar Johnson has been pushing him in camp. Kearse had 4 interceptions last year and hopefully he can cut down on giving up huge chunks of yardage.

Jadar Johnson - The sophomore didn't get as many snaps as classmate Kearse, but he has been pushing Kearse in camp this month. The coaches appear to be very impressed by him and Johnson will definitely get snaps this year. He's smaller than Kearse and doesn't have as much potential, but it is promising that he's been able to compete in camp. Hopefully this means the secondary is actually improving and isn't a competition of whose not the worst player.


Korin Wiggins - Wiggins is going to contribute this year, and if Blanks redshirts the season he will spend a lot of time at nickel. He isn't the greatest in run situations, but will be more than fine when opposing teams decide to sling the ball around. If Wiggins goes down though, there might be a little bit of panicking and drinking, definitely drinking.

Travis Blanks - It appears that Blanks will redshirt in 2014. I fear that we may have seen the last of Travis Blanks in a Clemson uniform. If he does not win a starting spot in the spring of 2015, I would think that from a football standpoint, it would be in his best interest to transfer to somewhere he could start.