Earlier today we examined the 5 biggest questions for Clemson's offense heading into spring practice, now we take a look at the biggest questions facing a Clemson defense that is either going to be rebuilding or reloading. This spring will likely determine which one happens.
1. So, who is going to start in our secondary?
Clemson returns 1 starter in the secondary. Yes, the Tigers get Wiggins back at nickel back, but let's wait until he gets into a game in 2016 before counting on any production. Knee injuries can be tricky things. Even with the nickel back spot filled Clemson still has to find 2 new safeties and replace one of the best corners Clemson has ever seen. Is Mark Fields going to be ready to step up? There will likely be a step back in the secondary this year, but how much will depend on how spring practice goes.
2. Can Clemson build some LB depth?
Last year Clemson basically relied on Ben Boulware and B.J. Goodson for LB play. Everyone else seemed to be either be unable to play the position for Brent Venables didn't trust them. We have two excellent LB prospects coming in, but it takes time to pick up Venables scheme, spring ball is going to go a long way towards determining how good the LBs are, and by extension how good this defense will be.
3. What does Clemson DE rotation look like?
While DE was a point of strength in 2015, it could be very different in 2016. The departures of Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd leave the Tigers with a lot of questions this spring. Austin Bryant showed some excellent promise, his performance in the Orange Bowl when Lawson got hurt was very good, and Celine Ferrel is high on potential. But again it is an example of a lot of talent and a lot of questions. Richard Yeargin may be the big question mark. If he can step up like Kevin Dodd did this year the DEs should be OK, or maybe Xavier Kelly shows up and blows everyone out of the water. Regardless of who steps up, Clemson needs someone to be that guy at DE.
4. Will the DTs be able to stop the run?
Yes the DT position should be one of strength. But as it has been noted the depth is talented but untested. Ideally Clemson will have 4 solid DTs that can contribute, but if an injury occurs or that talent doesn't pan out Clemson is going to have some problems stopping the run. That absolutely kills our defense, especially if they can run up the A gaps. This spring is going to be all about setting that rotation and making sure the depth is there to allow the DEs and LBs freedom to do their thing.
5. What will Brent Venables do with Korrin Wiggins?
We've all been assuming that Korrin Wiggins will return healthy and slide into the nickel back spot. But what if he can't play the position? Or what if Clemson isn't good enough at safety to allow Wiggins to play the nickel? There are a lot of questions here and what Venables does may provide some clues for the upcoming season.