Despite losing a significant amount of impact on both sides of the ball, including a top ten pick in last April’s draft, Clemson has a talented squad returning and will be well represented in the 2011 selection process. The team offers a number of next level prospects on the defensive side of the ball with enormous potential.
Offensively the top prospect is senior tackle Chris Hairston. A large blocker who plays a smart brand of football, Hairston is effective when he stays square, has the size to block down on opponents and flashes athleticism. Patient in pass protection, he displays solid range off the edge and easily controls opponents once he gets his hands on them. Hairston tends to rumble around the field and is ineffective blocking in motion but has potential in a system which keeps him near the line.
The roster has a bevy of defensive linemen starting with Da’Quan Bowers. The junior is a tremendous athlete that forces the issue up the field yet can also drop off the line of scrimmage and play in space. He breaks down well, effectively uses his hands, possesses a quick and immediate change direction and is rarely off his feet. Bowers shows himself to be a force as a pass rusher yet also a legitimate run stuffer when he plays hard. Problem is the motor is not always running in Bowers case. He will likely be over drafted once he leaves for the NFL but has the ability to be special if he applies himself.
Jarvis Jenkins is a prospect we love and a lineman that can line up at tackle or as a two-gap end. Jenkins shows speed off the edge, has the athleticism to pursue the action down the sidelines and is also tough to move off the point. He gets underneath blockers and is constantly doubled by opponents. Moving towards the season we feel he’s significantly underrated.
Not far behind is tackle Brandon Thompson. The junior fires off the snap with great first step quickness which gives him a decided advantage. Thompson looks and plays like a one gap tackle and is a prospect with a terrific upside.
Rennie Moore and Andre Branch are two underclassmen to keep an eye on and players that must share time due to the depth of talent on Clemson’s defensive line.
There’s a division of opinion when it comes to the Tigers top pair of defensive backs. We stand firmly on the side of Marcus Gilchrist.
Tough defending the run and pass, Gilchrest shows solid sideline-to-sideline range, a nice sense of timing and a terrific break to the action. His ball skills are top notch and Gilchrest will see action at cornerback this season. The arrow is pointing north for him and a good year at cover corner will only enhance his draft grade.
DeAndre McDaniel gets more press as he offers better size safety and delivers devastating knockout blows which is picked up on the highlights. Forceful up the field, he wraps up ball carriers and brings them down at the point of contact. Most effective between the numbers, McDaniel really presents himself as a straight line safety, does not take the best angles to the action and overruns plays. The inability to play outside the numbers will limit McDaniel at the next level.
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