Does Clemson football have best defensive line in country? Nick Eason is in a good position to know

CLEMSON – Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney pulled no punches 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 practice on Friday, Eason can’t help but agree with Swinney’s assessment.

“I’ve seen that so far,” Eason said. “I’m excited just to have the opportunity to coach them.”

He should be.

The Tigers’ defensive line possesses the talent and potential to rank among the best, if not the best, in program history.

It didn’t take long for Eason – a former standout for the Tigers who logged 10 seasons as a player in the NFL and seven seasons as an assistant coach in the league – to get a pulse on the talent Clemson has on hand.

“I’m going to be feeling good about myself if I can keep them all healthy. I may be up for defensive line coach of the year,” Eason said, laughing.

“The great teams I’ve been a part of always had depth, and I think we have some of the best depth in the country. Everybody in the room can play.”

And how.

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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’s a leader – I saw that in workouts when we started mat drills,” Eason said. “He’s been awesome, in the classroom and on the field. I think he’s going to have a dominant year. We’re going to cater to his skill set.”

Juniors Ruke Orhorhoro and Etinosa Reuben round out the unit 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 stops and eight tackles for loss last season, giving him a major confidence boost.

Bresee, whose 2021 season came to a premature end when he suffered a torn ACL in the season’s fourth game, is a preseason first-team All-ACC pick and is fully recovered.

“I told him that it’s a long season and that I need him in all the games,” said Eason, who coached the defensive line at Auburn last season. “He’s been great. He’s worked hard going through rehab. He’s a tough kid.”

Page, who got plenty of reps in spring practice with Bresee and Williams sidelined, is down to around 335 pounds after hitting a high of 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 important it is that they take care of their bodies,” Eason said.

“I’ve taken 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 was in the league.”

Each of the players in his room has the potential to excel at the next level, Eason contends, but for now he simply wants them to become the best college players possible.

“We’re very talented and I think we have some of the best depth in the country,” Eason said. “Everybody in the room can play and they all bring something to the table.

“If these guys put in the hard work, we’ll be the best in the country. It’s my job to make sure I’m demanding, but not demeaning. I’m going to challenge those guys every day. We’re ready to rock and roll.”

This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Do Clemson football, Dabo Swinney have nation's best defensive line?