Dabo Swinney says Tiger secondary ready to follow defensive line's lead

'We really like the guys we have. We just need more competition, more accountability, and more quality depth that we can depend on'

Clemson's Bashaud Breeland during the first day of spring practice in Clemson.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Bashaud Breeland during the first day of spring practice in Clemson.

Consider it a domino effect: the result of a string of needs-focused top-20 recruiting classes that are transforming Clemson's football team.

A year ago, Dabo Swinney manned his interior defensive line with young, talented, but untested players and watched them develop via competition and self-generated improvement.

He's expecting the same thing to happen this season on the offensive line, defensive end, and linebacker spots.

Next, he said, will be the Tigers' secondary.

"Last year at defensive tackle, we had a lot of young, talented guys, and with that came a ton of competition, and the guys just made each other better," said Swinney. "I see that happening at defensive end now, and what I see happening there is what I think we'll see happen in our secondary."

For now, new position coach Mike Reed's unit is painfully thin. After spring break, he expects freshman Jadar Johnson back from an elbow injury and for Garry Peters' suspension to be lifted. And Travis Blanks will be back full-speed after missing time last week as a precaution after he suffered a mild concussion.

But it won't be until this summer that Reed will have a full complement of players to work with, as seven freshman signees join the competition.

"Our number in the secondary is 14," said Swinney. "Right now we've got eight scholarship guys here, with seven coming in - so actually, we'll be one over. The reason we did that is that we know we're going to have to count on some of those guys next fall.

"We know they're all not going to be ready, and you really never know who's going to be ready and who's not. Who you think is going to be ready may come in and not be ready, and then there will be a guy who you thought would never play as a freshman, and he'll shock you."

With the additional players available, Swinney expects the competition to take care of itself - just as he's seen on the defensive line.

"There's going to be a lot of opportunity," Swinney said. "We really like the guys we have. We just need more competition, more accountability, and more quality depth that we can depend on."

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