Just like last year, the cornerback position will have another question mark entering this season. Adrian Baker decided to transfer to Oklahoma State after missing much of last year with a torn ACL, and Cordrea Tankersley will be playing for the Miami Dolphins this season. Fortunately, the Tigers should have enough talent to replace them.
Ryan Carter, who started much of last season in Tankersley absence, should be a day one starter for the Tigers. He started nearly every game last year and broke up seven passes and intercepted a pass. He was given the teams Iron Man award and the redshirt senior will be one of the veteran leaders of the Tigers secondary. He does have his troubles, though. He is only 5’9” and 180 lbs and his small size leaves him outmatched when facing bigger receivers, but he is a great nickel corner and should also see some time there.
Marcus Edmond will start opposite of Carter to begin the season. He grew from a depth player to a regular in the secondary in 2016. He took a huge step forward and even started in three games last year. Edmond is a little bigger than Carter and will probably have a little easier time covering some of the bigger lengthier receivers that the Tigers will run into this season. He will hope to build on his breakout season last year to finish off his college career.
Other key players:
Trayvon Mullen cousin to Lamar Jackson, has had an impressive offseason and will see a bigger role in 2017. Mullen is a strong athletic corner that can line up across anyone. He is a raw talent that had his struggles in his first year of college football, but he can build upon that to have a breakout year in 2017.
Mark Fields saw his first meaningful playing time last season, but is still not quite at the level Clemson needs from a starting cornerback. He will mainly be used as a depth player. The Tigers will have to hope for him to progress in 2017 as he seems to be on deck to start once the current starters graduate. The problem with Fields is technique and mental understanding of the game. If he can put that together he will likely overtake Edmond as a starter, but until he proves it the coaching staff does not trust him in a starting role.
Isaiah Simmons redshirted last season, and is expected to get meaningful playing time at both safety and corner in 2017. He is a 6’3” 220 lb man that will likely see majority of his playing time as a nickel corner. As he develops the Tigers hope he will eventually take one of the wider spots, but the Kansas product will already be thrust into huge role within the defense at nickel.
K’Von Wallace and Cameron Scott may not be much more than depth players this year, but they will make their impact on special teams. Wallace could also force his way into the rotation, but he likely needs a bit more seasoning before doing so. The freshman duo of LeAnthony Williams and Brian Dawkins Jr. wont see much of the field this year, but will be waiting in the wings to eventually find their spot in the next few years.
Clemson will be depending on a few players to really step up this year at the cornerback position. Carter and Edmond are known quantities at this point. They may not have the lock down ability of Tank or Alexander, but they are solid and dependable.
But behind them there is a lot of potential. Inexperienced, but enough potential that cornerback could become a position of strength this year if these younger guys develop properly.