Defensive end lineup ready to be unleashed
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TIGERILLUSTRATED.COM will continue its post-spring analysis features throughout the week and into mid-May.
With post-spring interviews with assistant coaches in the books, Tigerillustrated.com is now releasing its annual post-spring position analysis features, today highlighting the Tigers' defensive end stable.
DE Frontrunner: Da'Quan Bowers
Size: 6-4 1/2, 270 pounds.
2008 season: As expected, played extensively his true freshman season (480 snaps; 6 starts), tallying 47 tackles, 15 quarterback pressures, 8 tackles for loss and one sack.
DE Frontrunner: Ricky Sapp
Size: 6-4, 248 pounds.
2008 season: Started just 9 games (ACL), and tallied 28 tackles, 10 TFL, 6 quarterback pressures & 2 sacks. Now has 22 starts, 100 tackles, 26 TFL, 11 sacks, & 37 QB pressures in his career.
Other contenders for significant action - Kevin Alexander (6-3, 255), senior; Kourtnei Brown (6-4, 240), junior; Andre Branch (6-4, 250), sophomore; Malliciah Goodman (6-4, 255), freshman.
2008 recap - Working in a passive, soft zone-based scheme, the Tigers ranked dead last in the ACC in sacks last season, totaling just 14. This group took a big hit obviously when Ricky Sapp missed much of the first three weeks of action after suffering an injury against Alabama (13 snaps in the opener). Sapp didn't reach the 40-snap mark in a game until week five. The edge-rusher suffered a torn ACL versus UVA, after just 22 snaps, and missed the remainder of the season. Bowers dominated in the Tigers' Gator Bowl appearance, earning MVP honors.
Off-season Prospectus -
Alexander, who told us last month he could get some work at backer this fall, is coming off his best spring to date. Coaches simplified Alexander's pass-rush responsibilities, and the Lake Butler (FL) native responded well according to position coach Chris Rumph. Asked at least 100 times from the start of mat drills until the end of April, coaches remained steadfast in their contention that Sapp was well on his way back to contact drills this August, as the senior continues ACL rehab. Said Swinney: "I'd say he's ahead of pace right now." Said Rumph: "Oh, there ain't no maybe, he's going to be back in August." Rumph tabbed Branch as a second place recipient behind Alexander from the standpoint of off-season/winter/spring gains. Goodman also performed well enough to give coaches more time to table discussion on whether he'll red-shirt this fall. Said defensive coordinator Kevin Steele: "You look at Goodman, and he looks like a junior out there."
Checking The Pipeline -
This group has the torque to be much more productive behind the line of scrimmage. That, coupled with the fact that Steele, by his own admission, is a "pressure guy" who likes to blitz and or attack the line of scrimmage with regularity, should give this unit a chance to put up better numbers this fall. Sapp seriously contemplated leaving for the NFL prior to his ACL injury. No doubt the 2009 season is huge for a player who's trying to recreate an interest in himself from scouts who want game film to match Sapp's forthcoming 2010 spring workout show, which will obviously help his stock. Bowers is clearly the most explosive, dominant player up front, and put on a show in Jacksonville. Can be an All-American as a true sophomore. Keep an eye on Brown, who logged just 118 snaps as a heavily undersized true freshman in 2007. Red-shirting the Charlotte (NC) native may be on the table for discussion later this summer, given that Alexander and Branch are capable second-teamers who will each pull over 150 snaps apiece, particularly Alexander who will be over the 200-play mark easily. Tigerillustrated.com would rank Goodman as the No. 2 overall talent up front next to Bowers. If Clemson's coaches opt to play the former US Army All-American this fall, odds are he would ultimately beat out Branch for the No. 2 spot. Goodman, at this time, is getting strong consideration for early playing time. Moreover, Steele has reiterated on several occasions his desire to keep fresh bodies available due to his commitment to generating more of a pass-rush. Sophomore edge-rusher Byron Clear is not expected to make the two-deep this fall.
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