CLEMSON — Only two are necessary — though more would be nice — and one’s already a sure thing.
Mackensie Alexander, coming off an outstanding freshman year as Clemson’s top cornerback, returns to lock down half the field. His other half, Garry Peters, turned in a surprising first-team all-ACC campaign, tested often across from Alexander and responding with 13 defended passes (fifth-most in the league.)
With Peters graduated, his successor is still up in the air. Could it be junior Cordrea Tankersley, the speedster whose job was taken by Peters last fall?
Or the physical Ryan Carter, or Marcus Edmond or Adrian Baker — all sophomores? Give secondary coach Mike Reed and defensive coordinator Brent Venables five months, and they’ll figure it out.
“They’ve all done some really good things,” Venables said. “Some guys gotta add some strength to their game and improve in their coverage technique. But I like the group. We got some length, speed and toughness there. Who runs out there and starts, we’ll see when we’re getting ready to play Wofford (Sept. 5.)”
Head coach Dabo Swinney made an interesting comparison of the 2015 cornerback group to Clemson’s 2014 defensive tackles — when Grady Jarrett was the no-doubter at nose guard, but a bevy of big boys rotated as the second starter.
“From week to week, who practiced the best? They all play, we’ve got confidence in all those guys, but we’ll see,” Swinney said. “Mackensie’s separated, kind of like Grady separated. Those other guys can all play. If one of them separates further than the other, we’ll see.”
Tankersley might get the first crack at it; he appeared a year ago at this time to be the guy opposite Alexander before Peters swooped in following a game-one suspension at Georgia.
“Cordrea had a really strong spring a year ago, and then he didn’t have a great fall camp for whatever reason,” Venables said. “We can’t replicate that.”
Junior offensive lineman Jay Guillermo remains away from the team due to unspecified medical reasons, though Swinney spoke with Guillermo Friday.
“Very encouraged by our conversation. He’s doing all the things he needs to do,” Swinney said. “Hopefully he’ll keep doing that and will be back with us at some point. That’s all kind of on him.”
During his absence, Guillermo has tweeted commonly about adventures from the weight room and on fishing trips, and even complained openly about financial issues with the school. He tweeted, “As much money as us athletes make this is how we’re treated” and “Either stay 60% of the semester or get the medical attention I need… Hmmm #goodjobclemson,” tweets which were later deleted.
Of Guillermo’s tweets, Swinney said, “I have no idea about any of that. I don’t tweet, so I don’t have a clue. I don’t have anything on my desk about it.”
Guillermo is a potential rotation player on the line, having played 16 games in two years.
Senior linebacker B.J. Goodson, slated to start at middle linebacker, suffered a bruise during practice April 6 and did not suit up for the spring game. Venables expects Goodson to be fine for summer drills.
Also, freshman quarterback Kelly Bryant got up slowly at one point after rolling out and taking an awkward fall. When Nick Schuessler jogged on to the field in case he was needed, Bryant waved him back to the sideline, and completed the drive with a fourth-and-goal touchdown pass to Mike Williams.