Clemson Defensive Line Aims to Dominate

Clemson Defensive Line Aims to Dominate

During the 2018 season, the Clemson defensive line was one of the most talented and dominant college football has ever seen. The guys in the trenches for the Tigers in 2022 have a chance to rival that group. The defense has been the foundation on which this program’s success has been built. For the most part, the strength of the Tiger defense has been along the line. This year will be more of the same. The Clemson defensive line has a chance to be the best in the country.

Clemson Defensive Line Aims to Dominate

For all the offensive expansion over the past few decades in college football, controlling the line of scrimmage is still the key to competing for championships. The Tiger offense struggled in 2021 and could be a work in progress to start this fall. However, championship aspirations are still on the table for Dabo Swinney and company because of how dominant their defense can be. They return their top six players from last year’s rotation up front. The Tigers allowed under 100 yards a game on the ground last year. They also had 42 quarterback sacks. This program has been at or near the top of the nation in tackles for a loss for almost a decade now. That won’t change in 2022.

Blockade in the Middle

The Clemson defensive line will have the nation’s best pairing of tackles in Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis. Breese was the number one overall prospect in the 2020 recruiting class. He broke into the rotation along the line and had four sacks as a freshman. He was projected to be a game changer in 2021, but an ACL injury cut his season short. Bresee is back at full strength heading into this campaign and will be a force along the defensive front. He plays mainly inside but can also be effective on the edge if the situation calls for it. At 6’5” and 300 pounds, he is a load to move in the run game. The Maryland native also has the quickness and athleticism to get after the quarterback and disrupt opposing backfields.

Davis is entering his fourth year as a starter. He has been the anchor for this defense since his breakout freshman season. His numbers have dipped since the six sacks and 10 tackles for a loss he had in 2019. Even with less production, Davis’ leadership and experience still have a major impact on the Tigers front. He could see those numbers rise again if he stays healthy. Bresee is likely to draw a lot of attention from opposing offenses, so that could leave Davis in more one on one situations. Trying to block this senior with one guy won’t end well for most teams. The Tigers also have good depth with Ruke Orhorhoro, Payton Page, and Tre Williams in the rotation. Orhorhoro started nine games in 2021 after the Breese injury.

Living on the Edge

The strength of the Clemson defensive line is that no one player can be focused on. If an offense tries to slide protection inside to stop Bresee and Davis, they will end up being terrorized by the likes of Myles Murphy, Xavier Thomas, and K.J. Henry off the edge. Murphy is a possible All-American candidate and will be looking to add to his 12 career sacks. The Junior has the size and skill to wreak havoc on opponents. That is certainly a theme among the whole of the Clemson defensive line group. He also has 25 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles in two seasons in orange.

Thomas has been a bit of an enigma for the Tigers. He has the talent to be a force, but inconsistencies and injuries have kept him from reaching his potential. He got hurt again to begin this fall camp and will miss time early in the season. His absence will open the door for Henry to step up. The North Carolina native is a pure edge rusher. He has the prototypical size and athleticism to play on the end and harass quarterbacks. Justin Mascoll and Greg Williams will provide the added depth behind Murphy, Henry, and Thomas. Both would likely start on most defense around the country. That’s the level of Clemson’s depth in the trenches.

Walling Up

The Tigers dominance along the defensive front will be a necessity in 2022. Aside from Trenton Simpson, the linebacking corps is very inexperienced.  The same can be said in the secondary. The talent and potential are there in both units for the Tigers, but much of it is unproven. Luckily, the pressure the Clemson defensive line will put on opponents will ease that which is on their own back seven. Dominance is the standard and expectation when it comes to the Tiger defense. Along the defensive front especially, that will not change this fall.