CLEMSON – When Dabo Swinney examines the Clemson practice fields this spring he sees something he did not see at anytime last fall: depth and talent at the defensive end position.
Clemson struggled to generate pressure on quarterbacks last season with its front four, particularly in the first half of the season, and as result Clemson’s defense struggled. Opposing quarterbacks had time to throw and the Clemson secondary was often strafed for big plays. Clemson gave up 45 passing plays of 20 yards or more last season, ranking 93rd in the country in big plays allowed.
But this spring Swinney sees Vic Beasley morphing from a project to a potential impact defensive end. As a part-time player last year, Beasley had a team-best eight sacks. He has bulked up to 232 pounds.
“Last year, Vic Beasley was like a science project that we hoped would work,” Swinney said. “He’s got a chance to be pretty doggone good.”
Swinney sees talented veteran players in Corey Crawford and Tavaris Barnes, whom he called “as talented as any guy we have.” There are also four-star early enrollee freshmen in Shaq Lawson and Ebenezer Ogundeko, who have size and athleticism.
Swinney said the position has been “transformed.”
“If you can be good in the front seven you have a chance to be really good on defense and we are going to be good in the front seven,” Swinney said. “We have at end what we had at defensive tackle last year: a lot of talented guys and with that came a lot of competition. Guys make each other better. When you have that competitive depth it’s a positive.”
Clemson did finish 20th in the nation in sacks (34) but Clemson often blitzed. Swinney thinks Clemson can provide more pressure with just its front four this fall and with that he thinks improved performance will follow.
“We were not a great defense (last year),” Swinney said. “We don’t want to just be a top 50 defense. We want to be one of the best defenses in the country.”
Parker calls it a career:
Beaufort native Justin Parker told Swinney on Monday that he has decided to quit football. The former four-star linebacker prospect has a painful bone-on-bone condition is his left knee.
“He can’t do it anymore,” Swinney said. “He’s one of the most respected guys on the team.”
Parker plans to stick around the program in some capacity.
Blanks on hold:
Swinney said sophomore safety Travis Blanks suffered a “slight concussion” and will be out until after spring break. Blanks wore a yellow no-contact jersey Wednesday. Blanks said he is likes the switch from playing nickelback to safety.
“That’s where I feel natural,” Blanks said. “There’s where I played in high school. I see the whole field my reads have been great.”
Stoudt securing grip on No. 2 job?:
Swinney said it’s far too early to make a call on the backup quarterback competition between Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly but he likes what he’s seen from Stoudt.
“Just his consistency,” Swinney said. “His fundamentals, his knowledge. He’s more engaged. Looks more like a leader.”
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