There has been a lot of speculation about what Clemson Football will bring to the field defensively in 2022, largely because of the loss of defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
That’s a fair question given what Clemson’s defense was before Venables arrived at Tiger Town. As I mentioned last week, some “analysis” of the 2022 Tigers 0 includes about a defense that’s predicted to be the nation’s best in the upcoming season, at least by ESPN.
This team will surely miss Venables, but what’s not certain is how that will manifest once the games start. Energy? Calling in game? adjustments? Who knows?
What we do know, and as ESPN clearly articulates, is that the Tigers have plenty of returnees to make life difficult for opponents.
The unit loses two standout cornerbacks (Mario Goodrich and Andrew Booth Jr.), mainstays at linebackers (James Skalski, Baylon Spector), and longtime coordinator Brent Venables. Nevertheless, the prospects remain extremely promising. Clemson’s defensive line was and will continue to be a strength during the CFP era, especially in 2022 when All-America contenders Bryan Bresee, Tyler Davis and Myles Murphy all return. The line received an extra boost when end Xavier Thomas, a two-time third-team All-ACC selection, is back for a final season. At the end, there’s veteran depth with seniors KJ Henry and Justin Mascoll, who combined for seven sacks and 15 quarterback pressure last season. Tackle Ruke Orhorhoro in 2021 had 42 tackles, eight for losses, and should continue to add playing time along with classmate Etinosa Reuben, sophomore Payton Page and others.
New defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin has plenty of depth and plenty of second- and third-level talent to keep up, enough in fact to put them ahead of Georgia (and everyone else) in this ranking.
There are many factors that determine which team has the best defense at the end of the season, with injuries being the most notable.
Also, I think it’s fair to question Goodwin’s pedigree a bit, at least as far as field training goes. Players have universally praised him, but what other option do they really have?
The proof will be when the season starts, the ball gets shot and everything until then is speculation.
What’s not speculated, however, is that the Tigers have the talent to be among the best in the nation on the defensive side of the ball in 2022.