The blaring headlines exiting Clemson’s spring game all tout Trevor Lawrence and the newfound ceiling he offers the 2018 Clemson Tigers football team. Even I, a Kelly Bryant sympathizer, am all aboard the Lawrence hype train after witnessing his superior delivery and pocket presence. For years here at STS, many have joked to the point of meme-ification that Bryant is destined to move to safety since he fits Brent Venables’ preferred physical profile and the simple fact there are better passers on the roster.
Many tinfoil-hatters could argue that now such a move is borderline necessary, given the talent in the quarterback room and the lack of reliable bodies in the safety room. It is not hyperbole to suggest that defensive back play behind the starters is the biggest question mark on the entire roster and could handicap what would otherwise likely be the best defense in Clemson history, should injury strike the group like it did a year ago. Look no further than the spring game itself, where walk-ons formed the bulk of the rotation at the position throughout the game.
So, Kelly Bryant to safety?! Not so fast. What if I told you there is already a former 5 star on campus who knows Venables’ system inside and out? Who has played multiple positions on defense over the past three seasons? Who happens to be the team’s unquestioned leader and shoe-in to be a permanent team captain? Folks...Christian Wilkins to safety.
But Alex, why would we take 3 year starter, All-American, future 1st rounder from his position anchoring the best defensive line in college football and put all of his 300 beautiful pounds in space?
Where should I start? Clemson has depth galore on the defensive line, so Wilkins’ displacement would be mitigated by Albert Huggins, Jordan Williams, and company. Can we say the same about the safety depth behind Tanner Muse or K’Von Wallace? I think not. Look at this man fly the alley and find me a safety on the roster who does it better. You can’t, because no such safety exists.
Ok but Alex, what about pass defense? Safety responsibilities rotate by the offense’s formation, so he might not always be the underneath safety or matched on a tight end in cover 4. What if he alone has to roam the deep middle in cover 1 or cover 3?
Do you not remember Wilkins flying downfield and backpedaling to reel in a contested pass FROM A PUNTER? Look at the range this graceful man possesses; watch him track the ball at full sprint, rotate his hips, backpedal, and secure the ball. This is textbook deep safety technique and you better believe the draft scouts will take note.
Wilkins has the most passes deflected of any lineman in the country each of the past two seasons, and if I recall correctly, may have led the team in that statistic a year ago. Meaning he is literally Clemson’s best pass defender. And just where do I want my best pass defender? DEEP SAFETY. Wilkins has been a terror in many an offense’s backfield; it’s time to let him be a terror in our own defensive backfield. So don’t tell me he can’t defend the pass, and don’t tell me you don’t want this.
This is the ideal boundary safety body. You may not like it, but this is what peak performance looks like: