Clemson defensive linemen K.J. Henry (5) and Tyler Davis (13) could have big years in 2021. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Clemson Football

Clemson defensive line more than just Bryan Bresee, Myles Murphy

There is plenty going on at Clemson right now, and senior writer Matt Connolly is ready to answer whatever questions you might have. You can submit your question for the “Question of the Day” here. Today’s question is about the defensive line. Check back daily for answers to whatever is on your mind.

A pair of super sophomores — Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy — are expected to take big steps forward for Clemson in 2021.

However, the talent doesn’t stop there.

This should be Clemson’s most talented and deepest defensive line group since 2018 when Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant helped the Tigers win the national title.

Outside of Bresee and Murphy, Tyler Davis is the most obvious choice as far as the defensive linean who could have a dominant year. The junior played through injuries last season to finish with 5 tackles for loss an 2 sacks in seven games.

Davis is quick for a 6-foot-2, 300-pound tackle. And he’s also powerful, allowing him to move opposing guards and create a new line of scrimmage.

“Tyler Davis, man, going into his junior year, he’s just got the knowledge and the experience,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said earlier this spring.


Clemson’s defensive line has a chance to be special this season. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Xavier Thomas is another upperclassman who is capable of dominating when he is locked in.

The former five-star recruit has shown flashes of being a difference maker as a pass rusher, but he’s yet to put a complete season together.

Thomas had his most productive season as a freshman in 2018 when he had 10.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. But his last two years have been disappointing. He capped a tough 2019 season by being suspended for the first quarter of the national championship game against LSU, and last season he missed the first three games while trying to recover after getting COVID over the summer.

With that said, Swinney has been pleased with Thomas this spring.

“He’s good. He’s been consistent. He’s been available, and that’s been awesome. He’s been very, very consistent. He’s been very engaged. He’s feeling good about his conditioning and where he is,” Swinney said. “He’s still got some work to do between now and August, but I like his mindset. He’s shown up every day. He’s got goals and he’s keeping them in the front of his mind, which I like.”

Bresee, Murphy, Davis and Thomas, along with K.J. Henry, Justin Mascoll, Greg Williams, DeMonte Capehart, Tre Williams, Etinosa Reuben, Ruke Orhorhoro, Payton Page and Darnell Jefferies, make up a deep and talented defensive front.

To answer your question about Page in particular, Swinney recently had a lot of positive things to say about him.

“Doing well. He’s made good strides. A high school kid coming in here. I love his toughness. I love his willingness to be coached. He’s eager to learn,” Swinney said. “He is a load. He’s got a chance to be a special player. … His natural ability, his get off, his push, his ability to create another line of scrimmage when the ball’s snapped, really makes him unique. … He’s a great young talent.”

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