Summer Position Glimpse: Nickel/SAM

Because more and more offenses are stretching the field from sideline to sideline and operating at warp speed, defenses are looking to add versatile players who are capable of stopping both the run and the pass.

That's why Brent Venables and the rest of the Clemson defensive staff have sought a number of different kinds of athletes and body types over the last few recruiting cycles.

Projected starter: Junior Travis Blanks

Backups: While Blanks is listed above as the starter, there's no guarantee that he'll be the No. 1 option for the position. According to the official depth chart, there are four players vying for time at the position. Along with Blanks, T.J. Burrell, Korrin Wiggins and Dorian O'Daniel are all in the mix. Plus, the depth chart lists no individual as the starter.

What we learned this spring: Even though Blanks was still on the mend from ACL surgery, news of his move back to the Nickel/SAM spot went public. Venables said the plan is to add some bulk to Blanks during the spring and summer so he's more suited to play inside the box against the run.


Travis Blanks is expected be 100 percent and ready to roll by the fall.
Long-term future: Not only are there plenty of options, but a majority of them are relatively young and inexperienced. Blanks, the most experienced player in the foursome, played the position as a freshman before moving to free safety as a sophomore. Korrin Wiggins, a freshman in 2013, split time with the now departed Quandon Christian, similar to the way Blanks did in 2012.

Burrell and O'Daniel, both of whom were recruited to Clemson as linebackers, are different body types than Blanks and Wiggins, who are natural safeties. Burrell served as the backup to Christian in 2013 while O'Daniel took a redshirt. Burrell will be a redshirt sophomore this fall while O'Daniel will be a redshirt freshman.

Kaleb Chalmers, a cornerback commitment, could potentially work at the position when he arrives to Clemson in 2015. Linebacker Chad Smith and safety Tanner Muse could, too.

Moving forward: Exactly who is on the field this fall, more often than not, will be dictated by the opponent and personnel. Blanks and/or Wiggins are likely to see more time in passing situations while Burrell and O'Daniel could be more effective against the run.

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