Spring Forecast: Clemson secondary seeks rebound, right mix in 2021


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Zanders looks to build on his first year as a starter (ACC photo).
Zanders looks to build on his first year as a starter (ACC photo).

Spring football starts on Wednesday for the Tigers and we’re analyzing position-by-position how they look going into the next offseason phase.

2021 Projected Spring DB Depth Chart (2020 snaps/PFF grade)

CB: Derion Kendrick - 6-0 190 sr. (382/69)

Mario Goodrich - 6-0 190 sr. (237/55.6)

Nathaniel Wiggins - 6-2 175 fr.

CB: Sheridan Jones - 6-0 185 jr. (300/65.1) or Andrew Booth Jr. - 6-0 195 jr. (335/74.7)

Malcolm Greene - 5-11 190 so. (197/62) or Fred Davis II - 6-0 185 so. (183/72.7)

FS: Nolan Turner - 6-1 205 +sr. (564/79)

Joseph Charleston - 6-0 190 jr. (502/61.3)

Tyler Venables - 5-10 200 so. (214/52.4) or

RJ Mickens - 6-0 200 so. (36/58.8)

SS: Lannden Zanders - 6-1 200 jr. (291/66.1)

Ray Thornton III - 6-1 205 r-so. (158/59.3)

Jalyn Phillips - 6-1 210 jr. (149/65.6)

+ Returns with waiver.

Clemson spring outlook: Defensive backs

David Hood: Clemson’s secondary struggled at times last season. And that’s being kind. The loss of players like Tanner Muse and K’Von – athletic cats with a lot of experience – hurt more than we would have thought. The safeties struggled to cover athletic receivers down the field, and there were blown assignments galore. Hopefully, the growing pains are over.

Derion Kendrick needs to take the next step in his development, and either Andrew Booth or Mario Goodrich or Sheridan Jones or Fred Davis – or somebody – needs to get things figured out at the corner spot. Booth is athletic and makes spectacular plays, and there were times last season when I saw him on the sidelines, itching to get on the game, but he had to stand and watch as other players received those snaps.

At safety, Nolan Turner returns and should be the leader of that group, but even Turner wasn’t immune to the big mistake. With so many younger players chomping at the bit for playing time – Ray Thornton and Jalyn Phillips and RJ Mickens and Tyler Venables are just a few of the guys that can play both spots – there will be pressure to keep that starting spot.

Clemson’s secondary struggles in the loss to LSU could be explained by the lack of a pass rush, an NFL quarterback who was already a veteran, and NFL receivers all over the field. Last year’s struggles were a little more of the same at times, and Clemson went from fourth in pass defense in 2019 to 41st in 2020. That’s a big jump, and this spring will be spent fixing many of those issues.

Brandon Rink: Clemson returns its entire core of the secondary, which went through its share of injuries and a few trips to Dabo’s ‘Love Shack’ punishment spot with Kendrick.

As noted above, the Tigers took a step back as a secondary last year after losing Terrell, Muse and Wallace, as well as steady backup Denzel Johnson, and the experience plus talented incoming players from recent seasons should move the Tigers back up near the No. 2 pass efficiency defense rating from 2019.

The talent is there and it’s just a matter of finding the right mix, which the unusual nature of last season seemed to have an effect on.

Davis and Mickens, at corner and safety respectively, are two to watch who could benefit from the spring and start to carve out more playing time in 2021. After summer enrollment, all eyes will be on 5-star Barrett Carter as he joins the mix with the safety group.

Spring depth chart look

Quarterback

Running back

Receivers

O-line

D-line

Linebacker

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QBVII
spacer The biggest single thing that would help the secondary
76er®
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westerntigerfan
spacer The last couple of years have underscored how important it
76er®
spacer CB is fine...SS and FS not so much...
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spacer Completely agree...
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spacer Agree with most of the posts
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