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2015 Clemson Football Participation: Defensive Line

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As in previous years we are taking a look at the snap counts of each position for Clemson football. Rather than starts, number of snaps is a good indicator of true experience. All of the numbers used in this are through the Orange Bowl, they do not include the national championship game. These snap totals also only include snaps on offense or defense, special teams participation is not counted. Players in bold will not be returning for 2016.

For our final position group, we look at the most interesting, the defensive line. Because of the unique demands of the DL, we get a large number of players that get meaningful snaps. We've mentioned before that a defensive line really needs a quality 2-deep. When you get that type of depth you get a defensive line like we saw in 2014. But even when you don't have all of that depth you can get an excellent defensive line such as the 2015 edition. Below we've broken out the snap counts into charts for the DTs and DEs. Unlike other positions where starters may get close to 1,000 snaps, the top DL guys usually top out in the 600-700 range depending on ability and depth.

Player Year Position Wofford App State Louisville Notre Dame Georgia Tech Boston College Miami NC State FSU Syracuse Wake South Carolina UNC Oklahoma Total Snaps
Jaquarius Brice R Sophomore DE 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
Austin Bryant Freshman DE 17 33 3 3 0 0 31 4 16 5 14 6 14 63 209
Kevin Dodd R Junior DE 25 43 64 70 33 48 30 65 48 52 47 62 62 68 717
Shaq Lawson Junior DE 27 44 67 69 37 48 25 65 52 57 41 65 58 6 661
Collins Mauldin R Graduate DE 10 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 12
Chris Register R Freshman DE 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
Dane Rogers R Sophomore DE 22 2 0 0 15 13 11 0 0 0 3 0 0 2 68
Richard Yeargin R Freshman DE 19 28 0 0 21 12 20 4 0 0 17 6 0 17 144

Defensive end was a fairly big question mark heading into the 2015 season. We knew Shaw Lawson was going to be a stud, but there was a lot of concern about who would play opposite him as well as who would back him up. Kevin Dodd stepped up opposite of Lawson and now both DEs are leaving. It was a pretty spectacular job by both and we are definitely going to miss them. Austin Bryant is one of the likely starters, especially based on who we have in camp right now. There is always going to be a little bit of concern with a new guy, but Bryant's stellar performance in the postseason should put the brakes on that. Bryant may need a little time to adjust to being a starter, but his work in spring practice has been pretty good.

As for the second DE starter, a lot depends on what the staff decides to do with Christian Wilkins. He's gotten work at DE this spring and has looked pretty darn good. As we detailed before the spring game he has enough talent to stick as a starter at DE. If the numbers work out at DT, Wilkins will likely slide over to DE and give us some excellent work out wide. For backups, Clelin Ferrell has looked good as he approaches over one year from his injury, and Richard  Yeargin has some potential and may be putting things together. It looks like we may have better depth at DE for 2016 even if our starters aren't as productive as Dodd and Lawson (ranked 1 and 2 in tackles for loss nationally) were. But the big question will be if the position can get enough of a pass rush. If that happens a lot of our questions about the defense will be quelled.

Player Year Position Wofford App State Louisville Notre Dame Georgia Tech Boston College Miami NC State FSU Syracuse Wake South Carolina UNC Oklahoma Total Snaps
Roderick Byers R Senior DT 14 20 10 8 12 15 17 9 0 6 17 11 6 5 150
Albert Huggins Freshman DT 12 23 0 0 7 0 20 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 65
Scott Pagano R Sophomore DT 31 28 37 29 26 26 20 17 24 21 22 15 15 21 332
D.J. Reader Senior DT 0 0 0 0 0 0 17 28 30 27 17 32 41 32 224
Jabril Robinson R Freshman DT 19 27 1 0 9 6 0 0 0 0 5 0 0 0 67
Carlos Watkins R Junior DT 26 28 60 57 31 40 18 49 34 29 24 42 47 40 525
Christian Wilkins Freshman DT 24 28 35 41 26 41 19 19 31 28 26 27 40 35 420

Now DT is the most secure position on the defense. We lose DJ Reader, whom I consider a half of a starter, and retain Scott Pagano, Carlos Watkins, and Christian Wilkins. All 3 have significant experience and I'd be comfortable with any 2 of the 3 starting. From spring reports about Wilkins, I have a sneaking suspicion that Pagano and Watkins will be our starters and Wilkins will slide over to DE. That then gives us Dexter Lawrence and Albert Huggins as the two backups. We'll also get some contributions from Jabril Robinson who had a good spring, and maybe even Nyles Pinckney depending on the staff's decision to redshirt him.

Huggins is probably my, "Don't Sleep on Him," candidate for 2016. This isn't based on any specific knowledge, just that Huggins is an extremely talented lineman and I think he's kind of disappeared after his freshman year. I know a lot of fans were disappointed because of all the hype from Huggins and then the lack of production, but stepping in and contributing your freshman year is a rarity. I think he'll get more snaps this year and be a big contributor. But regardless our DTs look set to move forward with plenty of experience and a silly amount of talent waiting in the wings. Remember to say a few prayers for opposing OL this year.