1. IT'S TIME FOR 93 TO DO IT
When a highly-touted recruit arrives to campus with hype like Da'Quan Bowers had, it's nearly impossible to live up to some of the expectations. To this point in his career, there aren't many who'll argue that Bowers hasn't lived up to that billing.
That includes Bowers himself.
He was challenged by the Clemson coaching staff to approach the offseason like he'd never done before at Clemson. If looks are an indication, it appears that he's done just that. Bowers has cut nearly 20 pounds since the end of last season.
Coming off a knee injury, which forced him to sit for two weeks in 2009, Bowers is fully recovered for the start of the upcoming season. He was on his way to a pretty productive sophomore year when he injured his knee on the first defensive snap against Coastal Carolina. In 2009, he was third on the team with three sacks and tied for second with 11 tackles for loss.
The junior needs a good campaign in 2010 in order to avoid being labeled by some as a bust. A clean bill of health and another year of experience should allow for Bowers to have his best season at Clemson.
2. A FIFTH SPOT IS OPEN
Fourth-year junior Rennie Moore worked into the mix at defensive end during the spring. But the logjam at defensive tackle has somewhat subsided with the dismissal of Jamie Cumbie.
According to the post-spring depth chart, Moore slides into the immediate backup role to Jarvis Jenkins at tackle.
Moore did impress coaches this spring with his work on the end, though. Unless one of the two freshmen (Corey Crawford, Tavaris Barnes) added in the 2010 class is ready, Moore might find himself working between tackle and end.
3. ANDRE BRANCH NEEDS A REPEAT PERFORMANCE
Fourth-year junior Andre Branch emerged onto the scene in 2009, despite backing up Ricky Sapp at the bandit end spot last fall. Remember, Branch recorded 300 fewer snaps than Sapp, but had only 14 less tackles and three fewer sacks.
Not bad for a guy who was rated by Scout.com as a two-star recruit in the class of 2008.
Just imagine what Branch will do this fall when he's playing upwards of 500 snaps. Powerful at the point of attack while staying with his assignments, Branch could be one of the most underrated defensive players in the ACC entering the start of the season.
4. SACK NUMBERS CAN IMPROVE
This comes on the heels of a drastic increase in sacks from 2008 to 2009. Of the 36 team sacks in 2009, 15.5 were made by defensive ends. Kevin Alexander was responsible for 3.5, but he spent time between end and strong-side outside linebacker last season.
There's something to be said for the increase in team sacks. Clemson improved the sacks per game average from 1.08 in 2008 to 2.57 in 2009, thanks in large part to a change in scheme under defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
While Bowers isn't necessarily a pass-rushing specialist, his numbers will have to go up if Clemson is going to continue to improve in this area.
5. DEPTH IS GOOD
The Tigers have churned out several quality defensive ends over recent years and there are a couple of others on this year's team. Opposite Bowers, at the bandit end, is Branch. On the post-spring depth chart, Bowers is backed by sophomore Malliciah Goodman and Branch is backed by fourth-year junior Kourtnei Brown.
Both Goodman and Brown were four-star players coming out of high school and have showed outstanding promise in the early stages of their careers. Goodman, in particular, could be the next Gaines Adams by the time his Clemson career is finished.
The group is also joined by freshman Tavaris Barnes and Georgia high school defensive player of the year Corey Crawford.
Position facts: Defensive End
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