Spring Forecast: Tigers bring back starting group, high expectations on D-line


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Murphy led the nation in run defense grade. (Photo per Sugar Bowl)
Murphy led the nation in run defense grade. (Photo per Sugar Bowl)

Spring football is right around the corner for the Tigers and we’re analyzing position-by-position how they look going into the next offseason phase.

2021 Projected Spring DL Depth Chart (2020 snaps/PFF grade)

DE: KJ Henry - 6-4 255 r-jr. (384 snaps/61.7 grade) or Xavier Thomas 6-2 270 sr. (119/63.5)

Greg Williams 6-4 260 r-so. (67/60)

Regan Upshaw 5-11 240 +sr. (166/69.4)

DE: Myles Murphy 6-5 275 so. (414/85.2)

Justin Mascoll - 6-3 255 r-jr. (377/49.6)

Cade Denhoff - 6-5 225 fr.

Other scholarship DEs: Justin Foster - 6-2 275 sr.^

DT: Tyler Davis - 6-2 300 jr. (196/68.3)

Ruke Orhorhoro - 6-4 295 r-so. (33/67.1)

Payton Page - 6-4 315 fr. or

Darnell Jefferies - 6-2 290 r-jr. (49/71.8)

DT: Bryan Bresee - 6-5 300 so (432/69.2)

Tré Williams - 6-2 300 r-fr. (14/92.9) or

DeMonte Capehart - 6-5 305 r-fr. (20/82.2) or

Etinosa Reuben - 6-3 280 r-so. (40/70.1)

+ Returns with scholarship waiver.

^ Sat out 2020 season for health matter.

Clemson spring outlook: Defensive line

David Hood: Clemson’s defensive line was a mix of the young and the old last season, and it was the babies who did most of the damage. Freshman defensive end Myles Murphy and freshman defensive tackle Bryan Bresee put together stellar seasons, with Bresee more than picking up the slack when veteran Tyler Davis missed time in the middle of the season.

The emergence of Bresee and the return of Davis was the writing on the wall that prompted veterans Nyles Pinckney and Jordan Williams to transfer. Ruke Orhorhoro and Etinosa Rueben have had two years in the system and this is the year for those two – projects from the beginning – to take a big step forward. Darnell Jefferies shouldn’t get lost – he is finally at his playing weight and his athleticism is hard to handle. Tré Williams and DeMonte Capehart got their feet wet last season and should be a force in 2021. Add in big-time freshman Payton Page – already on campus – and Todd Bates has a lot of talent to work with.

At defensive end, the Tigers return Xavier Thomas, who might bookend with Murphy to form a speedy tandem for Lemanski Hall. KJ Henry had offseason surgery but played well at the end of last season. Justin Mascoll had his moments in 2020, while Justin Foster missed the season recovering from health complications. If Foster returns, this group is suddenly deep. Greg Williams is putting on weight and certainly looks the part, and it will be interesting to see how he looks heading into the spring.

Brandon Rink: The projected depth chart above would shake things up a bit from how things finished in 2020 at defensive end, where Thomas and Murphy were on the same side and Mascoll and Henry shared a starting role on the weakside.

Going into 2020, Thomas was listed as a co-starter with Henry and Murphy isn’t going anywhere as a stalwart on this D-line. Thomas may find himself on the field a little more platooning opposite Murphy to maximize the talent and rotation here. Mascoll could stay on that side or maybe move over with Murphy and spot him. Mascoll did start nine of 12 games last season with two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss over 377 snaps.

Murphy will look to build on a strong debut, where he led the nation in run-defense grade (92.5) and ranked just outside the top-20 overall grades-wise (min. 4 games).

On the interior, there aren’t many teams nationally that can boast a returning duo the caliber of Bresee and Davis, and the task this spring is bringing some highly-rated prospects along to provide quality depth and push those two to improve. Capehart and Williams stand out in particular as being much-hyped along with Bresee but then just not having their respective freshmen campaigns shake out like his. They get a longer look this spring to yield more snaps this season.

Spring depth chart look

Quarterback

Running back

Receivers

O-line

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