Stock on the rise: defense

In the second of a two-part series, we take a look at the players on the defensive side of the ball that put together a solid body of work this spring.

LB Stephone Anthony, So.
It didn't take long for first-year defensive coordinator Brent Venables to insert Anthony into the starting 11 at MIKE linebacker. Anthony was in the middle on the first day of spring practice.

Venables, who was asked regularly about Anthony's progress, always had good things to say about the former five-star prospect.

A majority of Anthony's snaps in 2011 were at the middle linebacker spot while the Clemson defense was in its nickel sub-package. Corico Hawkins received most of the base package snaps in 2011 and 2010.

Now, Hawkins is competing with Jonathan Willard, Justin Parker and Tony Steward for the starting weak-side linebacker job.

Even though a finger injury kept him out of the final week or practice this spring, Anthony has solidified his spot at middle linebacker.

NG Grady Jarrett So. and Tavaris Barnes, RS So.
Listed on the post-spring depth chart as the co-starters at nose guard, Jarrett and Barnes each had a solid run this spring.

Even though Barnes missed a few practices and the spring game because of a personal matter back home, he developed nicely this spring. Barnes, who was originally signed as a defensive end, it's possible he could provide depth on the edge.

This summer, both will need to keep their stock moving in the upward direction. Midway through the spring, Dabo Swinney proclaimed that Barnes must be a quality contributor this fall if the Clemson defense is going to be competitive.

It was Swinney's confidence in Jarrett and Barnes that helped ease the decision to move Tyler Shatley over to the offensive side of the ball.

DB Travis Blanks, Fr.
Blanks, one of several class of 2012 early enrollees, entered Clemson with a similar work ethic that Sammy Watkins had when he stepped on campus last summer.

On day one, Blanks was in with the first-team nickel package at the nickel back position. With more and more teams trending to spread, multiple-wide receiver offenses, Blanks is expected to start in a majority of the games this season.

Blanks will provide depth at the inside cornerback spots and could also spend time at safety. The Clemson coaches have likened him to former Clemson defensive back and current San Diego Charger, Marcus Gilchrist.

Darius Robinson and Bashaud Breeland are listed as the starters at cornerback.(Hale McGranahan)
CB Darius Robinson, Jr.
Robinson and the the other cornerbacks had the unenviable task of regularly covering Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, Jaron Brown, Martavis Bryant, Charone Peake and Adam Humphries for 15 days.

When you're always matched up on what could be the top wide receiver corps in the country, you're going to get better.

Robinson enrolled at Clemson in 2010, oozing with confidence. And during his first two seasons on campus, there were plenty of times when he was humbled -- that'll happen to just about any young cornerback.

In the spring game, Robinson played with the confidence that helped him become one of the top prep cornerbacks in 2010.

DT DeShawn Williams, So. and Josh Watson RS So.
Like the nose guard spot, the defensive tackle position has co-starters listed on the post-spring depth chart.

Williams' stock has been on the rise since the day he stepped foot on campus, and it continues to trend upwards.

Although Watson played a minimal number of snaps a season ago, he's continued to work himself into a usable part on the defensive line.

Venables told reporters this spring that he's comfortable with the first four interior defensive linemen. Top Stories