Defensive position battles

When spring practice opens in two weeks, the search to replace several long-time starters will commence.

Defensive End

Malliciah Goodman held down the strong-side defensive end spot over the last two years. In 622 snaps last season, Goodman recorded 28 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

Spring candidates
Tavaris Barnes
Shaquille Lawson
Kevin Dodd

Barnes, who's bounced between tackle and end, will get a serious crack as a starter this spring. He appeared in 12 games in 2012, racking up 24 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack.

Originally a signee in 2011, Lawson spent last fall at Hargrave Military Academy. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound freshman could also figure into the competition for time at the weak-side defensive end spot.

Dodd avoided a redshirt last season, serving in the swing end spot. In eight games, he played 87 snaps and had eight tackles.

Anthony began his Clemson career at middle linebacker. He could move outside this spring.

WILL Linebacker

For each of the last two seasons, Jonathan Willard was one of the most consistent performers on the Clemson defense. He led the Tigers with 94 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss as a senior.

Spring candidates
Stephone Anthony
B.J. Goodson
Tony Steward

It's no guarantee that Anthony will move over to the WILL from MIKE. But, from the outside looking in, it certainly seems like a logical option. Anthony, who's started 10 games in the middle over the last two seasons, could compete for time at SAM.

Like Anthony, Goodson is also an option in the middle. As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Goodson recorded 22 snaps over four games, but appeared in every contest as a special teamer.

Waiting his turn behind two seniors, Steward played only 73 snaps last season. He's projected to work with the first-team defense when practice opens next month.

Strong Safety

A two-year starter, Jonathan Meeks was first among Clemson defenders with 835 snaps last season. He finished with 61 tackles and two interceptions.

Spring candidates
Robert Smith
Jerrodd Williams

Smith spent the last two years patiently waiting his turn behind Meeks. In 104 snaps last season, Smith had nine tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup. He's projected to open spring practice as the starter.

Since gaining eligibility after transferring in from Virginia Tech, Williams has been plagued by injuries, suffering a broken leg last spring and again during the fall. He appeared in six games as a special teamer before the season-ending injury.

Free Safety

Rashard Hall, a longtime starter at the free safety spot, finished his Clemson career third in school history with 17 takeaways.

Peters played several critical snaps at cornerback after injuries decimated the depth chart.
Spring candidates
Travis Blanks
Ronald Geohaghan
Garry Peters

As expected, Blanks emerged as the Tigers' top freshman in 2012. Though it wasn't a Sammy Watkins-like splash on the scene, it was a more than respectable start. In 563 snaps, Blanks had 49 tackles, seven pass breakups and an interception.

Most of his freshman year work was at the nickel/SAM position. And it's not out of the question that Blanks could work in the nickel spot again this fall.

Geohaghan, a four-star recruit out of Allendale-Fairfax, spent the 2012 campaign as a redshirt. Mostly an in-the-box player in high school, Geohaghan could also contend for time at nickel/SAM.

Peters has bounced back and forth between safety and cornerback during his Clemson career -- and it's possible that he won't even move back to safety in 2013. Working primarily at cornerback last season, Peters had 20 tackles and eight pass breakups in 522 snaps.

More spring practice previews...
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