Clemson Defense: Five Exciting Things We Learned in the 2024 Spring Game

The Clemson defense did what they do. Spring practice and the spring game are in the books for Clemson Football. So begins a long, slow, hot summer waiting for the Tigers to run down the hill for the first time in 2024. In many ways, the spring game showed a lot of what we already know about the 2024 Clemson Tigers. In others, we learned some things, especially with so many starters sitting out on both sides of the ball. While the offense underperformed in the eyes of many, the defense stole the show in other ways. Here are five things we learned about the Clemson defense during the 2024 spring game at Death Valley:

This Clemson defense is deep

There were multiple projected starters out on both sides of the ball for the Tigers. In their place, it opened opportunities for players further down the depth chart to step up and they did in a big way. There is talent at all levels of the Clemson defense, from the front line, to linebackers, and in the secondary. The defensive backfield picked off quarterback Christopher Vizzina twice, including one returned for a touchdown. But we will get to that play in a moment. But should there be any attrition on the defensive side of the ball this season, head coach Dabo Swinney has a plethora of playmakers to turn to that will soften any potential blow.

The secondary is scary good

We knew it would be, though. The youth movement of Khalil Barners, Avieon Terrell, and Kylon Griffin took over down the stretch in 2023 and established themselves as one of the best in the country. The back end of the defense returns intact sans the loss of Nate Wiggins to the NFL. With Barnes, Terrell, Griffin, Shelton Lewis, and hopefully healthy Jaedyn Lukas in the fold, with senior leader R.J. Mickens back at safety, the secondary gave everyone a sneak peek last Saturday of how good that unit can be. Look for the Tigers’ defense to establish a no-fly zone against opponents in 2024.

Deeper at defensive end

Rising sophomore phenom Peter Woods did not play Saturday, but his absence brought up an intriguing situation. Woods had moved to defensive end from the interior of the line throughout the spring, but without him on the field, other players stepped up and showed the Tigers might be deeper at the end position than originally thought. Redshirt freshman Jahiem Lawson, brother of former Clemson great Shaq Lawson, was terrific. Coach Swinney has always been high on Lawson, and he showed why during the spring game by recording an interception and multiple tackles.

Clemson also has rising sophomore star T.J. Parker who has already established himself as one of the top ends in the country. Adding in A.J. Hoffler who can play on the end among others, and Clemson has depth and talent there that might fly under the radar but is no less talented. Should Woods need to play on the interior of the defensive line at any point in 2024, Swinney and defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin have solid options they should be confident in to shut down the edge.

Jamal Anderson will help the Clemson defense

Sophomore linebacker Jamal Anderson made a name for himself in the spring game. Anderson, who played in 13 games as a freshman and recorded just six tackles, showed he is ready to make an impact in 2024. The Tigers are loaded at linebacker even with the departure of Jeremiah Trotter Jr. to the NFL. Barrett Carter returns for his senior season along with Wade Woodaz. Both are grizzled veterans now and impactful defensive players.

But guys like Anderson, who recorded an amazing 24-yard pick six by snatching a pass quite literally out of the quarterback’s hands, will make his share of plays this season. Anderson showed a knack for the football and an ability to make plays in space, too. If you did not know who Jamal Anderson is, you should now. Soon, everybody will.

Confidence in the mission

The Tigers have always been able to hang their hat on defense during the Dabo Swinney era. The Tigers are able to shut teams down and have an undeniable swagger on that side of the ball. The 2024 defense will be no different. Projected by national outlets as a top-five unit in the country, there is depth, talent, and a belief in the mission of getting the Tigers back to the college football mountaintop. Opposing teams should not be looking forward to staring down this scary unit, and once everyone is on the field together, the 2024 Clemson defense will be a nightmare for offenses. If anything was learned last Saturday, this should be the most important lesson.

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