Previewing the defensive backs

With the start of spring practice less than a week away, CUTigers takes a look at what to expect from the Tigers' defensive backfield.

DeAndre McDaniel, Marcus Gilchrist, Byron Maxwell - For a second year in a row, the Clemson secondary takes a hit to graduation. No disrespect to Crezdon Butler or Chris Chancellor, but this year's losses hurt more.

McDaniel, an All-American safety, and Gilchrist, the defense's most versatile player who played 790 snaps last season, which tied for the team-high. Gilchrist was the leader in 2009 with 727.

Maxwell started eight of the 13 games during 2010 and finished with 48 tackles and two interceptions on 562 snaps at cornerback.

For the second year in a row, McDaniel led the team in interceptions (four). In 2009, he had eight.

Gilchrist contributed at several positions, including cornerback nickel back and safety.

Coty Sensabaugh (RS Sr.) - Sensabaugh played in every game last season and made three starts at cornerback. He played 352 snaps, recorded 20 tackles had an interception and a pass breakup. A serviceable backup, Sensabaugh could see an increased role this season unless he's pushed hard by a trio of talented redshirt freshmen.

Spencer Adams (RS Jr.) - Moved from safety to cornerback before the season, Adams had five tackles on 62 snaps. Blessed with sensational speed, early knee injuries have slowed his development.

Xavier Brewer (RS Jr.) - Brewer, a cornerback, played 649 snaps and started in 10 of the 13 games he played. He finished with 48 tackles, eight pass breakups, two interceptions, including one return for touchdown. A physical presence, Brewer could be the next big thing on Clemson's defense.

Rashard Hall (RS Jr.) - On 621 snaps, Hall had 54 tackles, three pass breakups, two interceptions, including a return for touchdown. He started all but one game at free safety and is a natural ball hawk.

Carlton Lewis (RS Jr.) - Lewis finished with five tackles over 115 snaps.

Jonathan Meeks (Jr.) - Meeks had 21 tackles and two pass breakups on 256 snaps. 2011 could be his breakout season now that McDaniel has moved on to the NFL.

Darius Robinson (So.) - Recorded two tackles on 73 snaps at cornerback last year and figures to be more of an impact player in 2011.

Martin Jenkins (So.) - At nickel back, Jenkins played 62 snaps and made eight tackles, building trust with Clemson's defensive staff along the way.

Bashaud Breeland (RS Fr.) - Former four-star prospect rushed for over 1,200 yards during his senior year at Allendale-Fairfax High School. He'll play this season- the question is where.

Desmond Brown (RS Fr.) - Brown won the Alabama 4-A state championship during his senior season. A physical player, Brown will have to prove his worth in coverage situations this spring.

Garry Peters (RS Fr.) - Despite missing four games as a senior at Heritage High School (Conyers, Ga.) , Peters finished with 50 tackles, two interceptions and a fumble return for touchdown. Dynamic athlete who has has much potential as any of Clemson's young corners.
McDaniel was the All-American and All-ACC guy for good reason. He's a ferocious hitter and an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands. But Gilchrist will be the one that's missed the most from the Tigers' secondary. He was a coach on the field and could lineup wherever the coach on the sideline, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, wanted him to play. And the Gilchrist is a really good football player, too.

Their likely predecessors here are Meeks and Brewer.

Meeks emerged as a valuable member of the secondary last season, and even made a start at free safety over Hall, who he's expected to team up at safety this season. Brewer is first in line to help fill in the void left behind by Gilchrist and will play cornerback and nickel back.

Sensabaugh has waited a long time his turn for a shot at the starting cornerback spot. He'll be pushed by Adams, Robinson, Peters and Breeland. Breeland could end up playing some safety, too. Coaches believe he's from the same mold as Gilchrist. Breeland will play this fall—this spring will help figure out exactly where that's going to be.

Before suffering an injury late in the season, Lewis had started to contribute some at safety. Along with Breeland, Brown will be in the mix for snaps, too. And Jenkins will continue to work at nickel back.

Simply put, defensive backs coach Charlie Harbison has plenty of options to work with this year, even after losing three starters from last year's crew.
1. With five seniors gone in two years, the secondary is looking for leadership. Hello, Rashard Hall, Xavier Brewer.

2. Rave reviews of Breeland's play on the scout team defense began to surface midway through last season. Let's see what he can do now that he's off the scout team.

3. Depth at cornerback. Who fits in where?

4. Life after the All-American, All-ACC strong safety.

Breeland will be one of the hot names thrown around during spring practice and will finish as at least the third cornerback.

1. Coty Sensabaugh
2. Bashaud Breeland

Strong Safety
1. Jonathan Meeks
2. Carlton Lewis

Free Safety
1. Rashard Hall
2. Bashaud Breeland

1. Xavier Brewer
2. Darius Robinson

Nickel Back
1. Xavier Brewer
2. Martin Jenkins Top Stories