Time for Clemson’s Kearse to become a wily veteran

Clemson safety Jayron Kearse plays defense in the Tigers' 2014 game at Florida State. (Clemson athletic communications)

You tend to know what Jayron Kearse offers.

Rangy defender who can cover the deep ball or rush the passer. Good tackler on the field, great talker off of it. Might be prone to the overaggressive decision, which can lead to busts on the back end.

The hope for Clemson coaches is the kid from south Florida who provided a spark as a freshman and was a burgeoning talent his sophomore year blossoms into a salty veteran during his third year under Mike Reed’s tutelage.

We do know Kearse won’t give up. That much was clear in the 60th minute of last October’s Louisville game, when Kearse chased down James Quick for a game-saving tackle. (We also know he’s not perfect; he was lined up wrong before that decisive play.)

The versatility of Kearse isn’t just evidenced by his 122 tackles, six interceptions and 5½ tackles for loss during his career. He vacillated between strong and free safety last year with Robert Smith, little to the knowledge of fans and media during the season.

That gives Reed and defensive coordinator Brent Venables the flexibility to put Kearse wherever they’d like in the defensive backfield. Kearse has even suggested he could line up at nickel if he were asked, not that Venables was tipping his hand that’s an option, but it’s an intriguing formation which would only serve to make the Tigers faster in space.

Just as Smith showed the ropes to Kearse in 2013-14, it’s now Kearse’s responsibility to help develop T.J. Green, a converted receiver who’s now handling return duties and has the Tigers’ coaches believing he’s found his spot at safety.

In case Kearse finds his motivation slipping, lest he — or we — forget Jadar Johnson was seriously challenging to start alongside Smith last fall. Johnson had a fine year himself, which truthfully is good for the unit’s depth as well as Kearse’s need to focus. It’s likely Johnson or Green will become the starter alongside Kearse.

Clemson Top 10

Friday: No. 10 DT D.J. Reader

Saturday: No. 9 C Ryan Norton

Sunday: No. 8 WR Mike Williams

Monday: No. 7 S Jayron Kearse

Tuesday: No. 6