Who is Wes Goodwin?
Look, we can all agree Wes Goodwin is not Brent Venables, but it doesn’t mean he is terrible. Clemson’s defense took a step back last year. When we needed it to be the best defense in the country to help a terrible offense, it was maybe only 15th best. Still a good defense, just not what we’ve come to expect.
Now that we are a year removed from Venables, it is time to see what type of DC Goodwin really is. Last year we saw stylistic changes in play calling, but as Goodwin gets more comfortable in the role, he is going to put his stamp on the defense. Don’t be surprised when it has a lot of similarities to what Venables ran here at Clemson, but we need to see what wrinkles Goodwin is going to have.
Can the DL stay healthy?
Everyone was excited when guys like Tyler Davis and Xavier Thomas decided to return for another season, but with their injury history the real question is going to be just how often will they see the field this year. Everyone agrees that when healthy the DL should be great. But that doesn’t mean much if 2-3 starters are always out injured, or only going at 80%. With the issues this team has in the secondary, the front 4 have to be disruptive and prevent opponents from having time to pick apart the secondary and LBs.
Will there be enough depth at LB?
Clemson has 6 LBs on scholarship right now. Of those, only 3 have played any significant minutes. There is no way to spin that other than to say it is a big concern. Yes, Clemson does not always need 3 LBs on the field, and depending on the breakdown of personnel, Clemson will often use a safety or cornerback in a NB role. But with such a critical position it is hard to be confident with only 3 experienced LBs on the team. This is a position that has to relay the defense, make calls, and adjust. It can’t all be done from the sideline.
How will Clemson cover in the secondary?
Clemson has a lot of guys at CB and S. Seventeen between the two positions when you count them up. But it is hard to look at the list and have a lot of warm fuzzies. There is certainly plenty of talent at both positions, but is it enough? A big help would be if Mr. Mukuba stopped impersonating 2015 Jayron Kearse like he did last year. A Mukuba actually covering and tackling people would be huge.
Other than that, the exact combination of players will be interesting to see. I wouldn’t be completely stunned if we see some different looks and even a bit of rotation early on as the staff tries to figure out what the secondary should look like. Especially with the issues at LB. Things could move around a bit as the staff tries to settle on a good group that can actually cover.
What are your burning questions on Clemson’s defense ahead of the 2023 season?