With Mackensie Alexander closing in on starting CB spot, Tiger defense 'complete'

Swinney believes improved Clemson secondary will complement accomplished front seven

Mackensie Alexander stretches before the Tigers' Orange Bowl practice session at their indoor facility on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 in Clemson, S.C. Clemson plays Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl in Miami, Fl. on Jan. 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

Photo by Mark Crammer

Mackensie Alexander stretches before the Tigers' Orange Bowl practice session at their indoor facility on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 in Clemson, S.C. Clemson plays Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl in Miami, Fl. on Jan. 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

The night-and-day transformation of Tiger freshman cornerback Mackensie Alexander has put him on pace for an opening-game start.

Dabo Swinney said after Clemson's first full-scale spring scrimmage on Monday that "if we played today, he would start."

"He's a quality young man, a talented young man, who's taking a lot of pride," Swinney said. "He's like a different guy from where he was mentally in the fall, hurt and not being able to play, being a freshman and all that stuff."

Also competing for spots in the cornerback mix are freshmen Adrian Baker and Ryan Carter, and sophomore Cordrea Tankersley.

"And don't forget about Martin Jenkins - he'll be back," Swinney said. "And Garry (Peters) has done a lot of good things. He got beat today for a deep touchdown today by Artavis (Scott). It's been very competitive, and it was good to see No. 3 make a big play on him. But Garry will be ready."

The addition of the freshmen at corner, plus the continued development of Jayron Kearse and Jadar Johnson at the safety spots, has Swinney predicting that the Tigers will field a defense without obvious weaknesses.

"We've got a good group back there," Swinney said. "This will be the most complete defense that we've had here in a long time. Last year, y'all looked at me like I was crazy when I said our front seven would be the strength of our team. And we went and led the nation in tackles for loss.

"But last year we were a little suspect in the secondary. This year, I think we can be much more of a complete group, with all those guys back and much-improved. We've got more hands on board, and it's just the overall talent and athleticism, and having guys in the right places. Guys like Jadar (Johnson) and Jayron (Kearse), who played last year as true freshmen, are just different guys.

"I think we can be very good in the secondary, because we've got competition there, just like we have competition at quarterback."

Follow Kerry Capps on Twitter @oandwkc

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Comments » 2

clemvol writes:

As far as a young defensive backfield they are then simply knock the ball down, hit, wrap and hold on if need be. Stay in position and don't try to make a play on the ball to be an allstar. ( Remember Georgia vs. Auburn ).

Xander5000 writes:

Alexander is going to make a play on the ball.....that guy just feels it. He will have to taper it off a smidge, but it will be difficult being that he has waited and all that adrenaline will be pumping through his veins, come Georgia time. But yeah, I agree wrap up something on someone and squeeze until they go down. The quicker the offensive player goes down the better.

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