Clemson’s Goodman needs to get ‘nasty’

Clemson senior defensive end Malliciah Goodman

CLEMSON — Malliciah Goodman is a physical marvel. He possesses massive 11½-inch hands — measured from thumb to pinky — requiring XXXXL gloves. He is a sculpted 6-4, 270 pounds. He has the wingspan of a power forward.

He is what a prototype NFL defensive end looks like.

The problem is that as Goodman enters his senior season, his on-field production has yet to match his physical gifts. And as Clemson loses its top three sack artists from last season, including the ACC-best 10½ sacks from Andre Branch, Clemson desperately needs Goodman to increase his production at one of the thinnest positions on the roster.

In three years, Goodman has played 1,349 snaps and has recorded just five sacks. That is a sack once every 269 plays.

In those 1,349 plays, Goodman has also recorded few impact plays against the run — just 12 tackles for loss in his career.

And as a junior, Goodman recorded just two sacks and four tackles for loss in 700 snaps.

On a team with just three returning defensive ends, it is the position of greatest concern to coach Dabo Swinney, the greatest concern to a defense that allowed nine touchdowns to West Virginia in its last game. Clemson needs impact players on the edge, especially in a league returning 11 starting quarterbacks and five QBs who finished in the top 50 nationally last season in passer efficiency.

“He’s got to take it to another level,” Swinney said. “He’s been a good player. He’s been a productive player but he hasn’t been a great player yet, and neither had Branch and neither had Da’Quan (Bowers) ... so that’s the challenge to Malliciah.”

Swinney even expressed some mild concern of Goodman’s temperament. Swinney wants to see more of a “nasty” disposition.

Coaches say it often takes ends longer to develop than other defensive positions. Since ends play on the line of scrimmage, it requires great physical strength in addition to refining pass-rushing moves and learning to anticipate snap counts. There is a reason South Carolina-born All-Americans like Bowers and Courtney Brown were not able to record a double-digit sack season until their junior years.

Clemson defensive ends coach Marion Hobby believes Goodman made strides last year. While his sack total remained low, he had 14 quarterback hits, doubling the total of his first two years. Hobby said Goodman needs to take advantage of opportunities.

“He missed more than he made last season,” Hobby said. “I had to embarrass him a little bit. He had his opportunities to get guys on the ground and he missed them. He was a first-year starter and sometimes that quarterback looks so pretty standing back there in the pocket, so easy to get him and just one step and he’s out of your way. Sacks aren’t easy. He’s going to have his chances.”

Goodman knows sacks can make defensive ends — like Branch and Bowers — rich in the NFL. Goodman wants more and thinks he could have had 10 last year.

“There are plays that I could have made that I didn’t,” Goodman said. “I have to try to take advantage of those and be perfect. Opportunities are there. I just have to execute.”