Transforming competition: Swinney says Tiger DEs 'don't even look the same'

'There's not a miss in the group...What we have now at end is what we had at D-tackle last year'

Football - Martin Aiken

Photo by Mark Crammer

Football - Martin Aiken

When Dabo Swinney looks at Clemson's competing defensive ends, he can hardly believe his eyes.

“That group has transformed," Swinney said after the Tigers wrapped up the first segment of spring practice Wednesday evening. "They don't even look the same: bodies, from a depth standpoint, athleticism. And now we’ve got some experience to go along with it."

That wasn't the case a year ago, when the Tigers entered preparations for the 2012 season perilously thin in both numbers and experience behind returning starter Malliciah Goodman.

Corey Crawford now has a full season as a starter under his belt, Vic Beasley emerged last fall as a dynamic pass rusher, Tavaris Barnes worked as a rotation backup, and Kevin Dodd got his feet wet.

The greatest transformation has come with the addition of redshirt freshman Martin Aiken and first-semester freshmen Shaq Lawson and Ebenezer Ogundeko to the mix.

“What we have now at end is what we had at D-tackle last year," Swinney said

The Tigers have upgraded the position both through recruiting and player development.

"There’s not a miss in that group," Swinney said. "All of those guys can play. Shaq Lawson and Ebo are very impressive young talents, and Martin Aiken is another guy we're very high on. And Kevin Dodd is a totally different guy than he was at this time last year."

There's no one in the group more talented than Barnes, Swinney said.

"He's been very zeroed in and is making a move, and there is nobody on this staff that would disagree that he is probably as talented a guy as we have,” said Swinney. "It's just a matter of putting it all together. He looks like he is trying to take another step."

All the defensive ends, including Beasley, have been alternating at both strong-side and weak-side.

"Last year at defensive tackle, we had a lot of talented guys and with that came a ton of competition," Swinney said. "They made each other better. We didn’t really have that at end last year, but we do now."

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