Justin Miller and Tye Hill both return as starting cornerbacks, and free safety Travis Pugh and rover Jamaal Fudge both return in the middle at the free safety and rover positions.
Fudge proved to be one of the most durable players on the team last year, getting in on team high 850 plays. In all, he tallied 116 total tackles, including 5 for loss, 7 passes broken up, and a team leading 4 interceptions.
He also led the team in tackles in three games, registering a season high 20 against Virginia, 12 against Wake Forest, and 17 against Middle Tennessee State.
And keep in mind those numbers came just a year after being moved from cornerback to rover.
"I'm involved in every play more now and you also get a lot more contact then at corner," said Fudge of the transition. "At corner, you really have to focus because if you lose site of what's going on somebody can beat you deep. At rover, you are just right there in the middle of everything."
Fudge's play was good enough to earn him All-ACC honorable mention honors, and also help the Tigers earn the second best pass defense in the conference last season.
But it wasn't just his improvement that helped set the tone defensively in 2003. Fudge had help, and plenty of it.
|FS Roy Walker is one of several redshirt freshman expected to make an impact this spring.|
Pugh has proven to be one of the most valuable players on the team, and even though his stats are rock-solid, insiders tell us that Pugh is also being looked to as one of the vocal leaders of the defense this year.
He's a senior. He's been through it all before and now he'll be depended on to help take this defense to the next level.
While both Pugh and Fudge have locked down their respective positions, their back-ups will likely be one of the most talked about areas of the team this spring.
Because we really don't know who those players are going to be just yet.
Junior Tavaghn Monts figures to see some action at free safety. Monts got in on 90 plays last season, tallying 15 total tackles, but his role was greatly diminished after Pugh really started to prove his worth in the early stages of the season.
Behind Monts, redshirt freshman Roy Walker figures to be a player that asserts himself this spring on the depth chart.
Walker, a former high school quarterback who was a late signee in the 2003 class, has impressed the coaching staff with this athleticism and speed.
"We like having quarterbacks on our team," said recruiting coordinator and linebackers coach David Blackwell. "Those guys are used to having the ball in their hand so you know they've likely got a leg up on the competition."
Behind Fudge at rover, several players figure to enter into the mix.
Ronnie Delusme is no longer on the team, but Kelvin Morris will be practicing this spring, and will likely continue to see action at rover, where he spent a good part of the 2002 season.
Morris has always been one of the most physically gifted athletes in the program, but academics forced him to sit out last season. The good news however is that sources tell us that Morris appears to be well on his way to playing again this year.
Eric Sampson could also have the versatility to move back to rover if need be, as could sophomore Tramaine Billie, but both players are better suited at the whip linebacker position.
The Clemson secondary finished second in the league in pass defense, and third in pass defense efficiency in 2003. Maryland finished ahead of the Tigers in both categories, but the Terps lose 3 out of 4 starters in the defensive backfield this year.