Post spring insider: Strong safety

CLEMSON — Every time he looked over to the sidelines during his time at Florida State, Kevin Steele always saw the same face.

"When I looked over there, I always saw DeAndre (McDaniel)," Clemson's new defensive coordinator said. "He may have never played for me, but it sure did seem as if he did. I know all about him."

What he knows is that McDaniel is one of the most talented players on his defense. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound strong safety has shown the versatility and the smarts to play nickel, linebacker and now strong safety.

He also can play free safety if need be, in fact all of Clemson's safeties will play both sides.

"We have a group of guys that are cross trained guys that can play both safety positions," defensive backs coach Charlie Harbison said. "If someone is not playing good I can put Sadat (Chambers) there or I can put (Marcus) Gilchrist there and we have Rashard Hall.

"It's not like (DeAndre) plays strong safety and that's all he plays. All of those guys cross train. It's all about putting the best 11 on the field and you have to find ways to make sure that your best players are on the field."

Harbison said he isn't worried about McDaniel having someone to push him this fall. He says McDaniel pushes himself everyday to be the best he can be.

"He is a student of the game," Harbison said. "He wants to be out there. He wants to compete. The key is making sure that he is well equipped to go out there and be productive."

DeAndre McDaniel (6-foot-1, 200 pounds, junior, Tallahassee, Fla.)

DeAndre McDaniel has the potential to be one of the top safeties in the ACC in 2009. (Roy Philpott/CUTigers.com)

About: Fifth on the team in 2008 with 77 tackles. He played linebacker last year, which was more of a nickel back position than a linebacker position. Recorded 51 tackles the last seven games of the year, including a career-high 11 against South Carolina. Had eight tackles, two tackles for a loss and returned a fumble 28 yards for a score against Nebraska. Started eight games and six of the last seven last season. Has played in 26 straight games and has recorded 110 tackles in his first two seasons.

The positives: Plays at full speed all the time. Has natural ability and can play four different positions if needed to. Has three career interceptions so his hands are fairly good. Is known for his hard hits, especially in last year's Boston College game when he broke two bones in Clarence Megwa's leg which caused a fumble and led to a late field goal to secure Clemson's 27-21 win.

The negatives: Can do a better job wrapping up. As many big hits McDaniel is famous for, he is also famous for missing tackles. However, late last year, he did appear to do a better job wrapping up ball carriers and receivers.

Carlton Lewis (6-foot-2, 200 pounds, redshirt freshman, St. Augustine, Fla.)
About: Florida Times-Union First-Team All-First Coast selection as a senior in high school. Also a member of the Super 11 and Super 24 teams by the Florida Times-Union. The No. 44 safety in the nation by Scout.com. Helped lead St. Augustine High School to the AAA state championship game, while registering 57 tackles and two interceptions during his senior season. High school teammate of fellow freshman Rashard Hall, who is second on the depth chart at free safety.

The positives: Is an aggressive player and like McDaniel can play multiple positions. Also has very good instincts and moves well. Had a very strong spring and made a couple of nice hits.

The negatives: Still has a lot to learn. Was caught looking in the backfield a few times during scrimmages and was burned for big plays and/or touchdowns. That, however, will improve with experience.


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