Today we move to the defensive side of the ball:
DE: While this is perhaps the single most talented unit on the entire Tiger team, it is a position that could find itself quite thin in the upcoming seasons. Speed rusher Ricky Sapp is still rehabbing an ACL, but continues to maintain that he will be ready to go come September. He will likely still be somewhat limited and not 100 percent until a few games into the season, but even a less than fully healthy Sapp should make an impact as he is far and away Clemson's best pass rusher.
Splitting duties and providing some stability at the position is the weight room junkie Kevin Alexander. Alexander may also get some looks at MLB in short yardage/goal line situations. Alexander doesn't have the burst off the edge that Sapp does, but is a steady, consistent player.
Kourtnei Brown completes the Bandit depth chart. Brown has a world of upside, but the motivational light hasn't come on yet.
At Strongside End, Da'Quan Bowers is the single most talented player on the entire roster this side of C.J. Spiller. Da'Quan showed flashes of dominance late in the season and played like a man possessed during the bowl game. Expect big things from him this year and should post some great stats in Steele's high pressure scheme.
Manning's Dexter Morant is high on Clemson's wishlist at defensive end for the 2010 class. (Miller Safrit/Scout.com)
THE BOTTOM LINE AT DE: Clemson loses its top two players at Bandit after this year leaving only Brown. If Brown can finally make some strides and dedicate himself, he is more than capable of being the front man here, but depth is obviously an issue. The Tigers ideally would have liked to have signed a Bandit this past class, but it didn't work out. This will be a priority both in depth and quality needing two prospects. The strongside position is much better off though DaQuan may bolt to the NFL after his junior year leaving only Goodman and Branch. Clemson will likely pursue one strongside end. I call for the Tigers to sign three defensive ends, including two Bandits, and one strongside end.
DT: Probably the most talked about position in terms of depth concerns by fans, this position is also a top priority for the Tigers. This unit is led by junior Jarvis Jenkins and sophomore Brandon Thompson. Each player had series where they whipped the line in front of them last year only to not have their names called for the rest of the quarter. Furthermore, they tended to have these series changing bursts offset from each other and rarely excelled in tandem.
Clemson has already landed the verbal commitment of 2011 standout DT DeShaun Williams. (Miller Safrit/Scout.com)
Their backups are also talented in Jamie Cumbie and Miguel Chavis.
Both are more natural pass rushers than run stoppers and may be employed in passing situations or against more pass heavy teams. Rennie Moore is a perfect example of a player who needed a redshirt season and appears to have made the most of it. While he may log a ton of snaps, he provides adequate depth. This unit should be strength of the team and could lead to a very stingy run defense this year.
THE BOTTOM LINE AT DT: While much has been made about the lack of depth here, Clemson will return its entire two deep next year as well. It is important to develop depth and ideally redshirt players along the defensive line, especially inside, but the pressure to land prospects here is not as great as the general consensus makes it out to be. So long as the Tigers can land a couple of prospects that will be ready to contribute on the starting level after a redshirt year, they will be fine.
In addition, they will have a second recruiting class after this one (2011) to land a potential true freshman contributor. This is a difficult task, but not impossible. The concern at this position is valid at this time, but is still the realm of being remedied. I call for the Tigers to land two prospects at DT with the purpose of redshirting both and preparing them for potential starting roles two years from now.