Spring Preview: Clemson’s Defensive Depth Chart

The Clemson defense looks to be in good shape with the return of so many stars from last year’s defense, but does that mean Wes Goodwin’s group does not have work to do? No, the Tigers have plenty of room to get better especially after a season where they did not live up to expectations.

Here’s a look at All Clemson’s projected spring depth chart and who needs to develop for Dabo Swinney and the Tigers during the next six weeks:

Clemson’s spring game will be held April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Defensive End:

First Team: Justin Mascoll and Xavier Thomas

Second Team: Cade Denhoff and Greg Williams

Third Team: Zaire Patterson and Jahiem Lawson

Mascoll’s and Thomas’ return are big for the defensive end position, which does not have much experience behind them. Greg Williams will be a redshirt senior, but he has not played much. Denhoff and Patterson will be redshirt sophomores, so it will be interesting to see how they have progressed the last two years. Lawson, the younger brother of Shaq Lawson, has been in the program for a whole season now. His ceiling is high, but how much weight and muscle mass has he gained? That is the key. True Freshman Peter Woods, who can play both inside and out, could possibly help with depth at defensive end, as he is perhaps the most ready-to-play-now player the Tigers’ signed in 2023.   

Defensive Tackle

First Team: Tyler Davis and Ruke Orhorhoro

Second Team: Tre Williams and Payton Page

Third Team: DeMonte Capehart and Caden Story

Fourth Team: Peter Woods and Vic Burley

Getting Davis and Orhorhoro back is huge for the defensive line. Davis is as good as there is at defensive tackle in the country, while Orhorhoro put himself on the NFL’s radar and another year with defensive tackles coach Nick Eason will do wonders for both guys. Williams and Page are both ready to start and DeMonte Capehart made huge strides in 2022 and could be a potential starter as well. Caden Story was redshirted last season, so it will be interesting to see how he has progressed. As mentioned, Woods can play either inside or outside, and he might do both in 2023, while fellow true freshman Vic Burley also has the potential to come in and play right away.

WILL Linebacker

First Team: Barrett Carter

Second Team: T.J. Dudley

Third Team: Kobe McCloud

Carter moved over from strongside to weakside backer when Trenton Simpson missed the Louisville game and excelled. He excelled so much, the coaching staff decided to keep him over there and moved Simpson back to SAM, where he played his first two seasons at Clemson. Carter is arguably the most versatile linebacker in college football. Dudley made big strides as a true freshman, especially at the end of the season. He ultimately jumped DaVonta Bentley on the depth chart and was Carter’s backup in the ACC Championship and Orange Bowl games. He played in four games in 2022 and was officially redshirted. McCloud played in two games and was redshirted, as well.  

MIKE Linebacker

First Team: Jeremiah Trotter, Jr.

Second Team: T.J. Dudley

Third Team: Kobe McCloud

Trotter earned second-team All-America honors from the Associated Press, after leading the Tigers with 93 tackles and 13.5 tackles for loss. He also had 6.5 sacks. He arguably was one of the best linebackers in the country over the second half of the season. It will be interesting to see what the Tigers do from a depth standpoint at linebacker this spring. With Keith Maguire retiring from football and Bentley transferring, Clemson’s depth at middle linebacker took a shot. Dudley and McCloud can play the position and will likely alternate as second-team backers at WILL and middle.

SAM Linebacker

First Team: Wade Woodaz

Second Team: Jamal Anderson

Third Team: See Nickel Back Position

One of the surprise players from 2022, Woodaz played in all 14 games and started one for the Tigers as a true freshman. He emerged as one of Clemson’s most versatile players on defense, as he played the SAM/Nickel position and played safety as well. He had 20 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss. He also broke up three passes, forced a fumble and blocked a punt. Jamal Anderson, who will be a true freshman, is a four-star player out of Mill Creek, Georgia. He has to put some weight on, but the coaches really like his athleticism and speed and think he might can help at the SAM position.

Nickel Position

First Team: Malcolm Greene

Second Team: R.J. Mickens

Third Team: Tyler Venables

Greene missed half the season due to a groin injury that eventually required surgery and forced him to miss the remainder of the season. Mickens started the Orange Bowl at nickel and played well. Venables also missed a good portion of the season due to injuries but likely will alternate with Mickens as the backup Nickel Back. 


First Team: Sheridan Jones and Nate Wiggins

Second Team: Jeadyn Lukus and Toriano Pride, Jr.

Third Team: Myles Oliver and Avieon Terrell

What was once a weakness on Clemson’s defense, has now become a strength. Wiggins emerged as one the ACC’s best cover corners and one could argue he should have won ACC Championship Game MVP honors. Jones did not have the ball thrown on him too much, either. Lukus and Pride got a lot of experience last season and are well on their way to becoming the Tigers’ next two great defensive backs. Oliver recovered from preseason injury that forced him to redshirt in 2022, but the coaches love his progression and feel he will be right in the mix next season. Terrell is the younger brother of former Clemson star, now All-Pro corner for the Falcons, A.J. Terrell. The true freshman has a lot of the same traits as his brother, and he should have an opportunity to compete for playing time this coming season.

Strong Safety

First Team: Andrew Mukuba

Second Team: R.J. Mickens

Third Team: Kylen Webb

Mukuba returns for a third season. Last year was a tough one for the sophomore. He was forced to deal with injuries all season, including a dislocated elbow and a foot injury. He played through the pain and played in 12 games, including 11 starts. Mickens is like having a third starter at safety. He has emerged as one of the Tigers’ best tacklers and cover guy. Webb was rated as one of the top athletes in the country in the 2023 class. The coaches are excited about what he can bring to the table next fall.

Free Safety

First Team: Jaylyn Phillips

Second Team: Tyler Venables

Third Team: Sherrod Covil, Jr.

A permanent team captain, Phillips’ return to Clemson is huge for the defense. He took a big step forward last season in becoming a more consistent player and leader. Rarely does he get out of position. Covil, like a lot of freshmen from last season, gained a lot of experience. The coaching staff really likes his upside, and they think he has a chance to be one of the best safeties Clemson has had. Venables is a smart player and is very athletic. However, the coaches want him to find a way to stay on he field more after missing part of the last two seasons.

In case you missed our projected offensive depth chart for Spring Practice, click HERE.

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