CLEMSON — Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney pulled out all the stops when he hired Nick Eason to be the Tigers’ defensive tackles coach in January.
“He said, ‘Coach, you’re going to have the No. 1 defensive line in the country,'” Eason said.
As Clemson prepares to kick off preseason practices on Friday, Eason can’t help but agree with Swinney’s assessment.
“I’ve seen that so far,” Eason said. “I’m delighted to have the opportunity to coach them.”
He should be.
The Tigers defensive line has the talent and potential to rank among the best, if not the best in the program’s history.
It didn’t take long for Eason — a former Tigers player who logged 10 seasons as a player in the NFL and seven seasons as an assistant coach in the league — to get a sense of the talent Clemson has under his belt. the hand.
“I’m going to feel good about myself if I can keep them all healthy. I might be in the running for Defensive Line Coach of the Year,” Eason said with a laugh.
“The great teams I’ve been on have always had depth, and I think we have one of the best in the country. Everyone in the room can play.
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The unit is anchored by senior Tyler Davis, a two-time All-ACC selection who has started 28 games since earning a starting role in his first career game as a true freshman. Clemson was 8-0 in games he started last season.
“Tyler is a leader – I saw him in the workouts when we started the mat workouts,” Eason said. “He was great, in class and on the pitch. I think he’s going to have a dominant year. We will respond to his skills.
Rounding out the unit are juniors Ruke Orhorhoro and Etinosa Reuben along with a quartet of ultra-talented sophomores – Bryan Bresee, Tre Williams, DeMonte Capehart and Payton Page.
Orhorhoro led Clemson’s defensive tackles with 42 saves and eight tackles for loss last season, giving him a major confidence boost.
Bresee, whose 2021 season ended prematurely when he suffered a torn ACL in Game 4 of the season, is a preseason first-team All-ACC pick and is fully recovered.
“I told him it was a long season and I needed him in every game,” said Eason, who coached the defensive line at Auburn last season. “He was great. He worked hard while in rehab. He’s a tough boy.
Page, who got plenty of reps in spring training with Bresee and Williams sidelined, dropped to around 335 pounds after peaking at 380.
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“I’ve been around a lot of great players – the Willie McGinests, the Shannon Sharpes – and one of the things I’ve learned from the pro guys about playing double-digit seasons is how much it it’s important that they take care of their bodies,” Eason said.
“I took that knowledge and brought it to the college level. I tell them, ‘Here’s what I’ve seen, here’s what I’ve learned in the 17 years I’ve been in the league.’
Each of the players in his room has the potential to excel at the next level, Eason argues, but for now he just wants them to become the best college players possible.
“We’re very talented and I think we have one of the best depths in the country,” Eason said. “Anyone in the room can play and they all bring something to the table.
“If these guys work hard, we’ll be the best in the country. It’s my job to make sure I’m demanding, but not demeaning. I will challenge these guys everyday. We are ready to rock and roll.