Running down a dream

CLEMSON - Earlier this week, Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele announced a position battle that's in motion for the nickel back position.

The 'star' job was vacated by Marcus Gilchrist, who was a second round draft pick by the San Diego Chargers in April.

Now, redshirt junior Xavier Brewer and sophomore Martin Jenkins are in a tight race for the starting nod at the position.

"We're all kind of interchanging, trying to see who fits where," Jenkins said. "Right now, it's all in the air."

As a freshman, wearing No. 27, he played 62 snaps in 11 games and recorded eight tackles. Now, switched to No. 14, Jenkins said he's much more confident with a full year of experience under his belt.

"I definitely feel, in a lot of ways, more mature, a lot more ready for the game. Last year, everything was in my head. I was just trying to sort everything."

Jenkins arrived to Clemson last summer with three other freshman cornerbacks. He and Darius Robinson avoided a redshirt. Bashaud Breeland and Garry Peters didn't.

"A year ago, at this time, we just got into camp. Plays were being thrown at us. I was just trying to sort everything. I'm definitely more comfortable than last year," Jenkins said.

Despite the lack of playing time a season ago, he enjoyed the experience.

"You got thrown in there for certain situations, you got to get adjusted to things, get used to certain things," Jenkins said. "That was definitely good, definitely a positive."

Meanwhile, he and Brewer continue to battle.

"We're just interchanging, going through. We're taking it play by play, practice by practice. The coaches' decision will dictate who's going to be starting," Jenkins said.

But he respects Brewer's tenure.

"He's been in the system a lot longer than me," Jenkins said. "It's definitely good to have somebody in front of you that knows what they're doing. They can push you, too."

It would be hard for him not to take that stance. Jenkins cut his teeth in 2010 with senior defensive backs -- Gilchrist, Byron Maxwell and DeAndre McDaniel.

"The older guys, they've been in the system a lot longer. They really know what they're talking about when it comes to plays, even outside of plays," Jenkins said. "They know how to treat their body, take care of certain things, take care of certain situations. Now, you see them prospering in the NFL.

"The same guys that were teaching you last year are in the NFL. The dream's a little bit closer." Top Stories