In the Dabo Swinney era of Clemson Football, the defensive line has been the strong point of the Clemson defense.
Players like Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett, Shaq Lawson, Dexter Lawrence, Clellin Ferrell, and Christian Wilkins helped escalate the program to a height it hasn’t seen before. However, Clemson isn’t done churning out star defensive linemen.
After a season of growing pains along the defensive front in 2019, Swinney is excited about the potential of his new front four.
“It's just unbelievably night and day from where we were last year, day one," Swinney said. "I mean you’re talking about (Etinosa Reuben) and Ruke were developmental guys, they didn't play football, junior years in high school, soccer players, basketball players. This time last year they showed up, I mean it's just like, man, don't move. You don't even know how to get the stance hardly. It's just a lot to learn and they're night and day compared to where they were. Just so excited to see that.”
However it is not only the young stars that have Swinney excited. Returning stars Xavier Thomas and K.J. Henry are expected to have big roles this year — especially after the loss of Logan Rudolph on the end.
"I mean KJ hadn't really played, and he was just kind of happy-go-lucky. And now he's gotten really serious about it, I mean he's got the chance to be really special," Swinney said. "The same thing with Xavier Thomas. He was a, as a freshman, just go in there, cut it loose, run around. And last year he had to become a more complete player and it was some growing pains for him. Because there's a lot that he's got to improve on, a lot to learn and he's, that helps you, and I mean that experience is so, you can't put a price on that. And I think he's going to just, I think he's just going to have a tremendous year."
Joining the list of players that have impressed this spring are Justin Mascoll, Greg Williams, Justin Foster and true freshman Myles Murphy.
"And then same thing with Mascoll, doesn't look like the same guy. He looks so much more confident that all physically look great," Swinney said. "Justin Foster, now he's been a starter, he's played that type of role, he's so much more confident, very steady guy for us. I'm just so excited about the whole group."
"Greg Williams, I don't know if y'all seen him but he didn't even look like the same guy. I mean he looks like a college football player now. And it's amazing how hard he's worked, and what a difference a year makes for him. And transitioning in a position of knowledge and installation and all this stuff. And then Miles Murphy is as advertised."