CORNER POSITION REVIEW
I did the 2022 Clemson Corner season preview and it was a mixed bag. Here is what I said last year:
Gone are the starters from last year Jr. Andrew Booth and Sr. Mario Goodrich. It is never great when you are breaking in two entirely new starters. That isn’t completely the case with Clemson. Sheridan Jones was a starter at various times in his career and is expected to take over a good portion of the snaps this year. In fact, the presumed starters for most of preseason camp have been Wiggins and Jones, but the latest rumblings I have heard have thrown this into doubt. Sounds like Wiggins and Jones will play a lot but the pecking order is still very much up in the air and Coach Reed is going to wait until the last minute to name starters and even then likely use the play on the field to determine things. I view this as a positive development as younger players are stepping up. Corner should be a position of relative strength despite being a bit unproven considering the amount of talent lost.
The departures of Booth and Goodrich were felt more deeply, and it took Wiggins a couple games to get up to speed after a rough first game. The highly regarded freshman had to play too many snaps and got exposed, and Jones was serviceable, but not elite. I also noted that Mukuba had been getting a lot of snaps at corner and that this was a possibility for the season.
Check this out, however:
Reed has recruited well enough that the talent is in place to absorb injury and marginal play. My only tiny worry is that the wide receivers on the team are struggling more than the team realizes and that the secondary isn’t getting challenged like it should be, resulting in some overconfidence.
With an improved pass rush (and improved offense), the secondary shouldn’t need to hold up quite as long, however, and that helps any secondary to look better.
Umm...tiny worry should’ve been a big worry. In fact, the defense going against a predictable offense year after year in practice has probably hindered the development of the defense more than we realized. For the corners, the lack of any passing game certainly didn’t help them to elevate their talent or expose them enough.
To summarize, last year—there was talent, but it was undisciplined at times. The entire secondary suffered from a lack of communication and far too many big play busts. That was more on the Safety play (slower safeties playing out of position) and some speed bumps with defensive play-calling. Throw in an up-and-down pass rush, and the young corners got burnt far too often.
Malcolm Greene Jr. 5’10, 195
Gone is the spark plug energizer who splashed his freshman year in the bowl game and then struggled with injuries and some off-the-field issues (and then never saw the field). He transferred out this offseason. Not a huge loss just because he couldn’t carve out a consistent role at either Corner or Nickel, but he did have experience.
Fred Davis Jr. 6’0, 200
Lots of talent. Started 4 games in 2022. Made some horrific off-the-field choices that should have gotten him kicked off the team and then transferred out to UCF. Not going to spend much digital ink on this—good for both parties to move on. Still feel horrible for those injured by Davis’ poor decisions.
Let’s cut to the chase. Corner needs to be a strength of this team. Wiggins needs to take the next step and become a consistent lockdown corner at the boundary. He is close but has a few areas he needs to improve, especially as a run stopper. Sheridan Jones returned for another season and needs to be better than average. He has struggled with confidence and lapses throughout his career, but he now has plenty of experience to be a steady contributor. The two rising true Sophomores in Lukus and Pride need to take the next step. The freshman class needs to be prepared to provide quality depth.
Corners look better with a quality pass rush. I am a believer in XT and think the interior Dline is as advertised, but the DE position is a wildcard with zero proven depth. Corners are going to need to hold up against a schedule with some quality Quarterback play and passing attacks compared to past years. Secondary cohesion also needs to improve. Last year the Safeties didn’t help the Corners out much. Lots of communication breakdowns. The same Safeties return (minus T-bone Venables who was one of the better communicators on the field), and that should improve, but I’m in a prove-it mode.
There were too many times last year that young corners were giving wide receivers 5 to 8 yards of cushion and still getting beat. Wiggins showed he has the talent to be a first-rounder but the young corners need consistency. Lukus has flashed in camp and has the size and tools but needs consistency. Pride sometimes has technique lapses. They are improving, however. Physicality and tackling also need to improve every single play or rep for the group overall.
Mukuba is likely your Nickel to start the year, and I can see him playing a good bit in Dime packages as well. Mukuba had a down year and really struggled with injuries. He lost the confidence that led him to splash as a freshman, and the extra corner workload didn’t help. However, I think a rejuvenated Mukuba helps in pass coverage overall (he won’t be playing straight corner—Nickel and Safety). Also, look for Woodaz to move around and play some deep Safety in certain packages like he did against Tennessee.
Myles Oliver 5’11, 180
Redshirt Fr. Oliver got injured last year and missed the entire regular season. He was healthy enough to dress and be at the bowl game against UT. Still needs to add strength and fully recover. Not optimistic he will garner too many snaps this year.
Branden Strozier 6’1, 180
I like Strozier, especially his length at the position, but he needs more bulk and size (all arms and legs right now). His long arms always stand out to me, and although he needs more strength, he has a knack for making plays. Likely redshirt.
Avieon Terrell 5’11, 180
The most technically sound incoming corner. He certainly has taken all the coaching from his brother and looks like a Terrell on the field. I like that he has a bit of a confident bulldog mentality in his game and his approach. Doesn’t back down at all; chip on his shoulder. Terrell will be on the bubble and might not redshirt, as the depth will need experience for next season. Got to get him close to 100 snaps, though.
Shelton Lewis 5’11, 185
I’m optimistic about Lewis. He is probably the 5th corner right now and has enough speed and grit to see the field. He enrolled midyear and has more experience than some of the other corners who came in the Fall. He likely avoids a redshirt and could see the field. He and Terrell have that confidence about them on the field but also in the meeting room.
The other player to watch is Misun Kelly, who started at WR and will be there in the short team. But we will see if he has the hands to stick at WR long-term and will eventually go to the defensive side of the ball. He has taken some snaps on defense in Fall camp but has shown he can be a decent WR with some flashes (and WR needs the depth right now!).
Overall, expect an above-average improved unit, but one that may give up too many explosive plays to be considered elite (and here I am considering the improved QB’s the Tigers will face this season). There should be more depth that can absorb injuries and keep players fresh down the stretch. If everything goes right, then Wiggins is exiting as an early-round draft pick, and Jones works himself into a late-round consideration. The youth develops as Lukus gives a physical presence, and Pride doesn’t allow any separation. Terrell shows flashes of his brother, and Shelton Lewis says he is next. I think the worst case is that they look like last year with busts, playing with too much cushion and not much physicality in run support. Should be a good year.