Up first is the defense, which will be under the direction of third-year coordinator Kevin Steele.
DT - Rennie Moore - The redshirt senior has seen an increase in production since stepping onto the field in 2007. Moore took a redshirt in 2008 after playing 35 snaps as a freshman. He emerged as a reserve in 2009 when he had 22 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
Though his snap total jumped of 198 in 2009 jumped to 315 in 2010, Moore had 26 tackles and seven tackles for loss last season.
Jarvis Jenkins' stronghold on the starting defensive tackle position is over. He was No. 41 pick by the Redskins in April.
Moore responded well to the challenge by the Clemson coaches and put together a solid spring and solidified his job as the starter at defensive tackle. He will now be counted on to provide the reliable play along the interior with Brandon Thompson, who's been discussed as a potential first-round draft pick in 2-12.
Slightly undersized at 6-4, 270, if Moore's active enough to command two blockers like Thompson and Jenkins, his presence will provide aid to the pass rush.
As seniors, both Moore and Thompson have been asked to serve as leaders. Factor in 2011 being their third season under Steele and defensive tackles coach Dan Brooks, it speaks to the amount of separation between the first and second teams along the defensive front.
S - Jonathan Meeks - Ready to step into a bigger role with the departure of All-American safety DeAndre McDaniel, Meeks is expected to see another steady rise in playing time.
Meeks played 54 snaps as a freshman and 256 as a sophomore. In 13 games last season, one of which he started, Meeks was in on 28 tackles, intercepted a pass and recorded two pass breakups.
With Rashard Hall already established on the backend of the Tigers' secondary, Meeks has the most room to make a noticeable jump with the departures of Bryon Maxwell, Marcus Gilchrist and McDaniel.
Meeks, who enjoyed the benefit of a prep school season at Hargrave Military, developed into a nice option as a third safety during his second season at Clemson. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound strong safety is a fearless hitter and strong ball hawk. A blend of veterans and youth at cornerback could be the right combination for Meeks to make a move into an impact role.
OLB - Quandon Christian - Before the glitz and glamour of the 2011 class of linebackers, Clemson's linebackers were mostly young and unproven. Heading into 2010, the most experienced linebacker, Brandon Maye, wasn't a starter. The trio was made up of two sophomores (Corico Hawkins and Jonathan Willard) and Christian, a redshirt freshman.
By the end of the season, Christian distinguished himself as the team's top linebacker. From the strong-side, he played 378 snaps and had 24 tackles. Though his tackles were the fewest among the four linebackers that had a start in 2010, Christian's worked earned solid reviews.
Heading into the 2010 spring practice, Christian sat third on the depth chart. Before it was over, he was first. He'll continue to hold on to it through the fall, too, even with the arrival of the 2011 class.
Christian's production this fall could be among the greatest by any returning player on the Clemson defense.
DE - Corey Crawford - Crawford has the luxury of prep school season to develop and a full spring/summer at Clemson to learn the system. That's why he gets the early nod ahead of Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward.
The former Atlanta-Journal Constitution Defensive Player of the Year enjoyed a very solid spring, during which he began to nail down the third defensive end spot behind Andre Branch and Malliciah Goodman.
Crawford, who will have lofty standards to live up to while wearing No. 93, is listed on the depth chart as Branch's backup at the Bandit end. The position is a blend between defensive end and outside linebacker, which can change the Clemson front from a 4-3 to 3-4, depending on the call from Steele.
Crawford is athletic and fast enough to play the hybrid position, which Ricky Sapp occupied before Branch.
Turning the corner
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