Summer Position Glimpse: Safety

All three of last year’s starting safeties are back for the 2014 season.

Two of the three are still listed on the Clemson roster as safeties. The other, Travis Blanks, has made the move back to the nickel/SAM position.

Starters: Senior Robert Smith, strong safety; Sophomore Jayron Kearse, free safety

Backups: The respective backups are sophomores, Jadar Johnson and T.J. Green. Last season, Johnson had 10 tackles over 98 total snaps. Green, who played wide receiver as a freshman, caught two passes. Jefferie Gibson, the lone defensive back signee in the Tigers’ 2014 class, could be a fifth option at safety this season, if he does not take a redshirt.

What we learned this spring: There were a few notable changes to the position this spring. After much speculation, Blanks’ move from safety to nickel was finalized. Blanks was unable to participate during spring workouts, because he was recovering from ACL surgery. Green requested the move from wide receiver to safety. By the end of the spring, Dabo Swinney said it was one of the best position switches made during his time at Clemson. In addition to Green’s surprising emergence, Johnson’s name was mentioned by coaches several times at the end of the spring.

Long-term: Safety is a priority position for the Tigers’ in 2015. Fortunately, for the staff, they were able to address it pretty early. Four-star Van Smith committed while in town for the Georgia game. Less than four months later, Tanner Muse hopped on board with his pledge. Based on the number of offers already passed out to prospects in the 2016 class, Clemson appears to be after multiple safeties for that haul.

Moving forward: Depth at safety was a concern for the Clemson defense in 2013. Heading into 2014, it doesn’t look to be as big of an issue. Green’s lack of experience at the position is a bit of a concern, but he knows the speed of the college game. From this perspective, he’s one of the most intriguing players on the Clemson roster this season. Smith continues to be a steady presence who’s reliable enough to play either the free or strong position. Kearse, who had a solid freshman campaign, has all of the tools to make him one of the best safeties at Clemson during the Swinney era.

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