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2016 Clemson Football Safety Position

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NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Ohio State vs Clemson Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As is tradition at STS, we are once again taking a look at the participation numbers for each player at Clemson during the 2016 season. While number of games played is a nice top level number, looking at snap counts provides a much better idea of how much experience a player is getting. It is also a good way of determining if a player should have redshirted or not. Ideally, a player should get at least 100 snaps in a season as a freshman, otherwise a redshirt would have been a better idea barring issues with depth. Also note that all snap counts are through the Ohio State game; totals for the Alabama game have not been published by Clemson.

Safety coming into the 2016 season was a big question. The loss of Jayron Kearse and T.J. Green meant both starting spots were open and there was not a lot of experience left on the team. In fact, Clemson only returned about 15% of snaps at safety going into the 2016 season. Yes, Green and Kearse had their limitations, but that is a lot of production to replace with players that had extremely limited experience.

Safety Snaps

Player Position Year Auburn Troy SC State Georgia Tech Louisville Boston College NC State FSU Syracuse Pittsburgh Wake Forest South Carolina Virginia Tech Ohio State Totals
Player Position Year Auburn Troy SC State Georgia Tech Louisville Boston College NC State FSU Syracuse Pittsburgh Wake Forest South Carolina Virginia Tech Ohio State Totals
Van Smith S Sophomore 71 79 11 56 100 66 79 73 43 74 52 39 72 55 870
Jadar Johnson S Senior 71 79 17 56 99 63 78 33 57 76 52 39 72 55 847
Korrin Wiggins S R Junior 35 21 27 0 40 23 0 37 11 0 0 0 0 0 194
Tanner Muse S R Freshman 0 0 37 0 0 8 0 0 26 2 5 20 0 1 99
Denzel Johnson S R Freshman 0 0 22 0 0 4 0 0 2 0 5 20 0 1 54

Thankfully it all worked out. Jadar Johnson turned out to be a talented safety and Van Smith stepped up as well. The two were the main guys at safety, both logging over 800 snaps. Korrin Wiggins did get time early on, but a lot of his time was spent at NB and even then it was obvious he just isn’t quite healthy. Wiggins has never quite recovered from his knee injury and at this point it is hard to expect him to ever contribute in a meaningful way.

Going forward it looks like Tanner Muse is going to be the primary candidate to replace Johnson. Muse has the athletic ability to be a star, but he’s going to have to get down the mental part of the position. With the new coaching staff splitting safety and CB responsibilities we could see Muse make a real jump with some dedicated coaching.

While we have a tendency to just assume that the defense is going to be ok given what Brent Venables and the staff has done over the past several seasons, safety is probably the biggest concern. The potential that we see at CB isn’t as obvious with the safeties. It doesn’t mean things won’t turn out well, but it is probably the biggest question mark Clemson has on defense.