D-Tackles should be a strength

CLEMSON - During his time at Tennessee, Dan Brooks saw a pretty good defensive tackle play a time or two.

Brooks tutored eight players at the University of Tennessee who were selected in the NFL draft, including first-round draft choices Shaun Ellis (2000), John Henderson (2002), Albert Haynesworth (2002) and Justin Harrell (2007). Haynesworth recently signed a $100 million contract with the Washington Redskins.

He also coached 11 players that earned All-SEC honors.

"I coached guys that were eager to learn and took well to coaching," Brooks said.

Though he has not coached his current group of players in a game just yet, Clemson's new defensive tackles coach likes what he has seen so far out of guys like nose guard Jarvis Jenkins and defensive tackle Brandon Thompson. Granted he has to replace starters, and team leaders, Dorell Scott and Rashaad Jackson up front, but Jenkins and Thompson have already proven themselves on the field and at least in the spring took their roles serious enough that they both dropped weight and built up their strength and conditioning.

"I like this group. I like the way they came and competed," Brooks said.

The veteran coach was also pleased to see he had some quality backups in Jamie Cumbie and Miguel Chavis behind his two starters.

Last year, the defensive tackles helped Clemson hold five opponents under 100 yards rushing, including two under 31 yards. S.C. State rushed for minus-10 yards, while Virginia totaled just 30. Those games showed Clemson has the personnel to get the job done. Brooks just has to make sure they do it on a consistent basis.

"I'm pleased with the group and I think we will be able to take them and help them progress into what they want to be," he said. "When I say progress, I kind of like to take them from the day I got to coach them until (now).

"I think we are making progress. The biggest thing I saw that they needed to do, and this is basically a young group, they just need to it consistently. I think there are five guys that can play and can help us win. I have not decided what that rotation is going to be yet."

That fifth guy is sophomore Rennie Moore, who is currently listed as the third string nose guard behind Jenkins and Cumbie. Brooks was really pleased with the way the 6-4, 265-pound defender came on in the spring and how he took to his coaching methods. He also liked the fact he pushed Jenkins and Cumbie to go and work even harder in practice.

Right now, Jenkins (6-4, 305) and Thompson (6-2, 315) are listed as the starters heading into camp on Aug. 4, but Brooks says that means very little on who will actually be starting when the ball kicks off on Sept. 5 against Middle Tennessee.

"When they walk out to practice that first day, it doesn't mean they have the starting job," he said. "I think we have good enough people that we can compete every day. That's what I want to do. With those five guys, we can come up with a good rotation, but I fully expect ya'll to see all five of them in the first quarter of the first game."

And that's the reason Brooks' defensive fronts have been so good for so long. During his 15 years in Knoxville, the Volunteers ranked in the top 25 nationally in scoring defense 10 times, in rushing defense 10 times and in total defense eight times. That includes 2008 when the Vols were third in the nation in total defense, 10th in scoring defense and 12th in rushing defense.

Between 1997 and 2001, Tennessee ranked in the top eight in the nation in rushing defense every year and his defensive linemen had a lot to do with that success. Each of the top four sack totals in school history were achieved during Brooks' time, including the 2000 season when the defense had an even 50 sacks.

That's good news for a Clemson defense that record just 14 sacks in 2009, six of which came from the defensive front.

"I like to keep my guys fresh and keep them all playing," Brooks said.

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