Notre Dame Opponent Preview: Clemson Tigers Defense


Clemson Defender Jayron Kearse has already made himself known to Irish fans

On Monday, Clemson Safety Jayron Kearse made headlines when he called out Notre Dame Wide Receiver Will Fuller for one of his tweets. The starting Safety is just one Clemson’s defenders. Here is a summary of the remainder of the Clemson Tigers defense that the Irish will face on Saturday night.

Defensive Line

The Clemson Tigers start three Juniors and a Sophomore along the Defensive Line. Leading the group is Junior Shaq Lawson. If that name sounds familiar, it is because Lawson was one of the top recruits in the 2013 class. As a Sophomore, Lawson tallied 34 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. This year, Lawson has collected 13 tackles, 5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Kevin Dodd, Carlos Watkins and Scott Pagano round out the starters along the Defensive Line. Dodd is tied with Lawson with 13 tackles on the season as well as 1.5 sacks.

Aside from the starters, Clemson receives significant contributions from Freshman Austin Bryant and Jabril Robinson. Bryant ranked as the 200th best recruit and 12th Weakside Defensive End according to the 247Sports composite. Robinson was under the radar as a recruit, ranking as the 1709th prospect in the 2015 class.

The majority of Clemson’s pass rush comes from the Defensive Line. Notre Dame’s Offensive Line will need to give Kizer time to find an open receiver in situations where Clemson drops seven players into coverage.


Travis Blanks (SAM), B.J. Goodson (MIKE) and Ben Boulware (WILL) are the starting Linebackers for the Clemson Tigers.

Goodson is a 5th-year Senior who leads the team in tackles. He has tallied 21 tackles this season. His production will be vital for Clemson’s success against Notre Dame’s rushing attack on Saturday.

Junior Ben Boulware is 5’11” 240 lbs. wrecking ball. Along with Goodson, Clemson is well-equipped to stop the run.

Travis Blanks is a “modern” Linebacker. He is 6’1″ 210 lbs. Blanks, unlike his counterparts at WILL and MIKE, is equipped to face spread formations and does not need to come off the field in passing situations.

Defensive Backs

The Clemson Tigers Secondary is lead by former Notre Dame recruit Mackensie Alexander. Alexander named Notre Dame his leader in 2012 but changed his mind on an official visit to Clemson. Alexander, a Sophomore Cornerback from Immokalee, Florida was a consensus 5-star recruit. Thus far, teams have tried to stay away from Alexander. Will he follow Will Fuller around the field? If he does, that could be one of the best individual matchups of the season.Cordrea Tankersley operates on the side of the field for the Tigers.

Jayron Kearse made his name known yesterday. In three games, he has tallied 11 tackles. Playing along side Kearse is T.J. Green. Green has been more prolific so far. He has collected 20 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, and 1 pass broken up.


As a unit, the Clemson Tigers rank as the 10th best scoring Defense in the country. Currently, the Tigers allow 12.3 points per contest. However, the Tigers have played Wofford, Appalachian State and Louisville. The only Power 5 opponent on that list, Louisville, ranks 75th in the country in scoring Offense. Clemson is a talented but unproven Defense. The strength of the defense is definitely the secondary.

The Tigers are the best Defense the Irish have faced up until this point. But, if the Offensive Line is as dominant as they appear, they should be able to run the ball against almost any opponent.

Next: Best Names In College Football