CLEMSON – Clemson's aim preseason was to create a class within a class among the eight incoming defensive backs – and that rotation is starting to form.
Through two games, first-year DBs Korrin Wiggins, Jayron Kearse and Jadar Johnson have seen the field on defense. Against Georgia, Cordrea Tankersley played on special teams.
Five-star prospect Mackensie Alexander has been injured since camp’s start (groin) and is “on ice” per Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney, taking it slow in recovery and likely headed for a redshirt. Fellow Sunshine State product Adrian Baker had similar camp injury issues and is headed down that route as well.
On the cusp is Marcus Edmond, who is the Tigers’ next option at corner with any injuries, while Ryan Carter is likely taking the year for development.
Johnson plays hometown team
Wiggins emerged out of a strong camp and started at nickelback in the opener with a tackle, but he sat out last week nursing a hamstring injury.
Jadar Johnson leads the group in tackles (3), which all came in his first playing time versus S.C. State.
“It was a lot of motivation,” Johnson said, who was playing his hometown team from Orangeburg. “I just wanted to go out there and show them that they've got a guy they can trust in me. Robert Smith is front of me and he gave me a lot of encouragement.
“(He said), ‘You're a freshman and you're not always going to play, but when you do you need to show them what you can do.’”
He said enrolling early in the spring eased the transition to make an early impact.
“When I first came in, I got homesick. I really wanted to go back home,” Johnson said. “I feel like if I had came in later and felt that I wouldn't have been able to perform as good as I could in fall camp. So coming in early and getting to know my teammates and the coaching staff and getting in the playbook - it really helped.”
A top-100 recruit per Scout coming in, the South Fort Myers (Fla.) product Kearse is even farther from home.
“Yeah I have (been homesick) if I'm honest,” he said. “I have battled it because of not seeing my family as much as I used to and being away from my Mom.”
Standing 6-4 205, he did a little bit of it all in south Florida – playing a duel-threat QB, nickelback and safety in high school. He’s already made a move while in TigerTown from nickel to safety playing behind Travis Blanks. He thinks sticking in one spot – or at least one side of the ball – will certainly help his development.
“It's going to help me get better and better my game,” Kearse said. “In high school, I was focusing on being good at this position and also on another position. Now that I can focus on one position it's going to better my game.”
He is having to get used to literally not being the big man on campus.
“The speed of the game (is different) – in high school, things aren't moving as fast,” Kearse said. “You might play some teams that are pretty good and some that aren't. Also the size (of players), I'm going against who are bigger or the same size in me, but in high school, I'm the biggest person on the field.
“It has been (strange). Just got to be aggressive in every thing I go with. If go up against a lineman, I go be aggressive with him.”
The tests that come in practice are helping though.
“Me personally I think we have the best wide receiver corps in the nation. Those are all good guys at receiver,” said Kearse. “Working with those guys is helping me a lot better. When I get on the field, I'm not seeing a lot of guys that go after the ball (like that).”