Department of the Interior

CLEMSON - A trio of senior defensive tackles will anchor a Clemson defense that could be among the country's best in 2014.

Grady Jarrett, DeShawn Williams and Josh Watson return to the Tigers' defensive tackle rotation, along with D.J. Reader and Carlos Watkins.

"Pretty active, solid, I'm not sure if there have been really any standouts," Brent Venables said. "DeShawn Williams has been really consistent, but it's been a pretty solid group."

As a junior, Williams had 37 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

"He's just pushed the pocket, been active," Venables said, when asked about Williams' spring. "He's made a bunch of plays, he's rushed the passer better, all those things."

Reader, who's focused solely on football after playing baseball last spring, continues to trend in the right direction.

"Since after spring break, he's been really noticeable. You've noticed him," Venables said. "He's worked on trying to slim up a little bit, be more active, have better endurance, be more quicker, better agility.

"That, hopefully, continues to happen. He's been really good since after spring break. He wasn't on another planet before spring break, but t I think he was capable of more."

Will and Mike for Ben

Ben Boulware served as a reserve middle linebacker this season. With Stephone Anthony back for his senior year, Boulware was expected to work in that same capacity in 2014.

This spring, Boulware is competing with Tony Steward for time at the weak-side linebacker spot.

"He's been real active. I've seen him progress," Venables said of Boulware. "He had a couple of bad days early, bad plays or bad drives. He's very hard on himself. About the last week or so, he's had a bunch of clean practices and reps, made a bunch of plays.

"He's got work to do, still, in refining fundamentals, technique and all that kind of stuff and understanding. But, playing the two positions, trying to learn them both at the same time, it's not that easy. He's done a good job of picking all that up."

Moving Blanks back to nickel

After playing the nickel/SAM position at a very high level during his freshman season, Travis Blanks was moved to free safety as a sophomore.

Once he's fully recovers from a torn ACL, he'll be back at the nickel/SAM spot in year No. 3.

"We've got some young guys as well as some experience coming back," Venables said of the nickel/SAM position. "We've got four safeties that I think we can definitely win with. We've got a range of length, speed, explosiveness, power, instincts [and] intelligence."

T.J. Burrell, Korrin Wiggins and Dorian O'Daniel have also been working there this spring. Martin Jenkins could also be in the mix this fall when he's completely healthy.

"[Blanks] played at a really high level. He's coming off an ACL. We'll bulk him up a little bit. There's not much of a learning curve. That's going to strengthen, gives us a chance to put our best players out there. He's still got to come out to fall camp and earn it," Venables said. Top Stories