CLEMSON, S.C. — Dabo Swinney was quick and to the point when asked how good he thinks his defense will be this coming fall.
“They can be as good as they want to be,” he said.
The Tigers could have the best defense in the country when it is all said done. Yes, they have a new defensive coordinator in Wes Goodwin. Yes, they have to replace stellar players like linebackers James Skalski and Baylon Spector, corners Andrew Booth and Mario Goodrich and safety Nolan Turner.
But they get defensive tackle Bryan Bresee back from injury, while returning defensive ends Xavier Thomas, Myles Murphy, K.J. Henry and Justin Mascoll. They also bring back defensive tackles Tyler Davis and Ruke Orhorhoro, along with linebacker Trenton Simpson, safety Andrew Mukuba and cornerback Sheridan Jones.
“They have the type of depth that gives you a little bit room for error,” Swinney said. “I think we have a chance to be a special group in the defensive line. I think we are going to be fast and athletic at linebacker. And I think we are going to finally have some great experience in the secondary.
“It is just a matter of getting everybody back.”
Besides Bresee, Clemson had several of their defensive stars banged up or out due to off-season surgery. Jones did not play in the spring game. Neither did freshman cornerback Jeadyn Lukus, cornerback Malcom Greene, safety Tyler Venables, defensive tackle Tre’ Williams and safety Lannden Zanders.
Swinney expects them all back and full go when fall camp begins later this coming summer.
“I think all three levels, we will have experience, talent and depth,” he said. “It is not always the case that you have that.”
The Tigers’ defensive line is loaded with talent and everything on defense begins and ends with it.
“I think we have seven guys that will get drafted this time next year. So, it will start right there,” Swinney said. “If those young guys handle their business, it is going to be a deep group that can lead the way for us.
“But they are only as good as the guys around them too.”