The Clemson Tigers have been one of the most consistent teams over the past decade. One of the main reasons for their success has been the defensive line. 2022 should be another strong year for Clemson’s line which is why they are the subject of today’s 99 Things. Clemson has found success with players on their defensive line with numerous players being drafted in the first round. A few of the notable recent players include Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins. This year’s crop of players is led by Bryan Bresee, Myles Murphy, Xavier Thomas and Tyler Davis. One common trend among the group has been health. Each player missed at least two games last season.
Bresee is in line to be one of the top draft picks in the 2023 NFL draft. He was the number one recruit in the 2020 class. He burst onto the scene in his freshman season at defensive tackle. Bresee was named a Freshman All-American and the ACC Defensive Rookie of the year. His sophomore season in 2021 could be viewed as a let down but mainly because he was injured. Bresee only played in four games last season totaling 13 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. A fully healthy Bresee is important to the success of Clemson as their best teams have fed off the energy from the defensive line.
If anyone is going to argue a player is better than Bresee on the defensive line, they will be picking Myles Murphy. Murphy is an impact defensive end who was also named a Freshman All-American in 2020. He was named Second-Team All-ACC in his sophomore season as well. Murphy led Clemson in sacks last season with 8.0. He also finished with 39 total tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss along with two forced fumbles. Murphy missed three games last season so if he can stay healthy the ACC will be put on notice.
The other defensive tackle is Tyler Davis. Davis is entering his fourth season at Clemson and likely his last. Davis was First-Team All-ACC despite missing six games. He missed games last season due to a torn bicep but returned before the season was over. Davis enters the 2022 season with 95 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. Davis has been a starter for Clemson since the first game of his freshman year and been an anchor on the line since 2019. The Tigers were 8-0 in games Davis started proving how important he is to the team.
Xavier Thomas has had an up and down career at Clemson but his talent is undeniable. Thomas struggled with Covid-19 during the 2020 season and originally intended on redshirting. He ended up playing in four games but fans knew he was not at full health. The former five star defensive end bounced back in 2021 to be a Third-team All-ACC selection. Thomas finished with 27 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He also registered a team high 17 quarterback pressures.
The Tigers also bring a wealth of depth on the defensive line. Senior KJ Henry is a former five star defensive end who has 88 career tackles and logged over 1,100 career snaps. Junior Ruke Orhorhoro played in all 13 games last season finishing with 47 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss. Tre Williams was a top 100 player in the class of 2020 who suffered injuries in 2021 but still logged over 240 snaps. The Tigers also have Justin Mascoll who has played in 39 games including 11 starts. Mascoll has 64 career tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss.
The strength of the best Clemson teams has always started up front with the defensive line. The Tigers are on pace to have another fantastic group to control the line of scrimmage. The biggest question for Clemson’s defensive line is their health. Can their starters stay healthy for the majority of the season to make an impact in the biggest games? If they can stay on the field watch for Clemson to finish atop the ACC standings.