Sunday morning quarterback

Clemson has had a strong run of defensive ends come through the program the past decade or so.

Gaines Adams led to Ricky Sapp, who led to Da'Quan Bowers, who led to Andre Branch. Sapp, Bowers and Branch all are playing in the NFL, while Adams was, as well, before dying at an all-too-young age of 26.

This time next year, that group likely will have a new member in Malliciah Goodman, who is entering a key senior season with the Tigers. Goodman has had a solid career, but a lot like the previous four, Clemson is counting on him to have a breakout senior season. That worked out well for the others, and it will for him, as well.

Goodman has 122 tackles career tackles, including five sacks and 12 tackles for loss, in his 41 games, 15 of which were starts. The Tigers will be banking on him improving those numbers this season, but maybe more importantly, he will have to provide leadership for a group that is the youngest and most inexperienced on the team.

The other defensive ends on the roster are Martin Aikens, freshman; Vic Beasley, sophomore; Roderick Byers, redshirt freshman; Corey Crawford, sophomore; and Collin Mauldin, redshirt freshman.

The continues at defensive tackle, where there are 10 players and no juniors or seniors. That's startling to see that much youth in one group, but it is a talented bunch. The other players just might need Goodman to show them the way a little bit.

WRIGHT ON: Hale McGranahan had a terrific piece this past week on Corico Wright, which included this quote that says a lot about Wright: "Like Coach Swinney says. I've been to the outhouse and I've been to the penthouse since I've been here. I've learned a lot. I've met a lot of great guys. I've met my best friend here. It's just been an unbelievable experience. I encourage anybody to come. As long as Coach Swinney is the head coach here, I would encourage them to come to Clemson, any recruit."

That comes from a rising senior who has started 25 games in his career who is no longer a starter. But if you've known Wright at all, you wouldn't be surprised. I covered him some in high school and actually covered his signing with Clemson on National Signing Day and always have been impressed with his positive outlook and focus on doing his best for the team.

Wright is a team-first player. He's all about winning, and whatever it takes to win games is what he will do. In his career, he has 170 tackles, including 17 tackles for loss, as he spent most of his career at middle linebacker running Kevin Steele's defense. New defensive coordinator Brent Venables brought a position change for Wright, and he has taken it in stride. That kind of focus has served Wright well throughout his career, and that will help him handle this change, as well.

DON'T COUNT OUT D.J.: D.J. Howard almost gets overlooked in the Tigers' backfield, and that goes back to when he was recruited. Howard was a solid recruit, but he wasn't one of the highlight players in his class. When he got on campus, he was overshadowed, of course, by starter Andre Ellington, but there was also a lot of focus on Mike Bellamy and others.

A lot of attention this fall has turned to talented freshman Zac Brooks, who eventually will live up to the hype.

Along the way, Howard has just done his job, and he had 230 yards on 41 carries last season. His best game came when he had a team-high 86 yards on nine carries against Auburn and pretty much ran out the clock on the final series of that win.

With Bellamy now gone, Howard will get his chance to contribute even more this fall, and it will be interesting to see his performance. Ellington has had injury issues throughout his career, so the coaching staff will want to keep him healthy, and that should mean more carries for Howard.

He has been up to the task so far with a powerful, straight-ahead running style, and he's the perfect complement to Ellington to form a dynamic backfield this season.

KEEP AN EYE ON KELLY: Chad Kelly is confident. That might be the understatement of the Clemson preseason.

But he also is determined, focused and hard-working, and that is coming out as he tries to avoid a redshirt in his freshman season as a Clemson quarterback. Kelly could have arrived on campus and just accepted a redshirt because Tajh Boyd is settled in as the starter and Cole Stoudt could be set as the backup. It would have been understandable if Kelly would have coasted onto campus and focused on next year.

That hasn't been the case. It's obvious that he has done his work and studied a complicated offense and is working to get on the field some this year. That says a lot about Kelly and what Clemson fans can expect when he does eventually take over as the Tigers' starter, redshirt or not.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter @DM_Shirley Top Stories