All eyes are on returning starters for Clemson's defense to begin fall camp, and the early signs, even without pads, are intensely positive.
Defensive tackle Bryan Bresee will be a frequent in defensive practice notes as he continues to thrive and impress, with Andrew Booth Jr. bouncing back Monday after an average start to fall camp, particularly in one-on-ones against receivers Ajou Ajou and Joseph Ngata.
Observations from Clemson's defense in a much shorter viewing period for the media on Monday's third practice:
- For the third straight day, defensive tackles Etinosa Reuben and Payton Page are the only visible Tiger defenders out of full contact with green jerseys over their shoulder pads.
- Team morale was something to witness in pre-practice stretches; head coach Dabo Swinney was moving down the lines from player to player while music blared in the background and seemed to have a personal touch with each Tiger. Dancing is a common occurrence on offense and defense for the Tigers in preparation for the first practice period.
- Defensive line coaches Todd Bates and Lemanski Hall worked on proper movements at practice's start, with some stunt action crossing the right end inside and defensive tackle outside.
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- Bresee doesn't just lead with his work ethic but has already earned a vocal presence amongst the defensive line group, challenging players to win every sprint and recorrect themselves if technique was wrong. There was never any coach pushback when Bresee spoke.
- Freshman Cade Denhoff can add some muscle weight in comparison to some veterans but is one of the tallest edge rushers and linemen in general on the field.
- Freshman linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. has been better than advertised, with practice pad thumps only matched by "Bruise Brothers" and Tiger vets James Skalski and Baylon Spector. Pads will tell much more how far along Trotter Jr. is and if he can contribute amongst a slue of talented linebackers.
- A less talked about name certainly, but sophomore linebacker Sergio Allen was consistent in his technique praise for defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Brent Venables. Explosive out of his breaks to the ball with solid wrap-up form to match.
- All six cornerbacks were a full go Monday, with Booth Jr. having to stop mid-positional drills for a hamstring stretch. Friday wasn't a stellar start for the proposed No. 1 cornerback but a Saturday step-up turned Monday showcase was positive after Friday's poor one-on-one showings.
- Freshman Nate Wiggins is only two inches taller than the next man beside him but towered compared to his cornerback teammates. Wiggins showed possibly the fastest hands of the unit when practicing press-man hand form but was undoubtedly the slowest with his feet. Not uncommon for taller corners, just something to note for the first-year who will surely be relied on with corner numbers dwindling.
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