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Clemson Football

Mickey Conn confident he has national championship-caliber defensive line

March 31, 2022

Mickey Conn has spent five years at Clemson as the safeties coach (2017-2022) but added the title of co-defensive coordinator alongside Wes Goodwin before the 2021 Cheez-It Bowl. 

Conn spoke after practice on Wednesday to discuss his new position, players, and the team's second spring scrimmage. 

On his role as co-defensive coordinator:

"Obviously, Wes is making the calls. As far as my duties go, just having an overall say in what we're doing schematically whether it be the front, linebackers, or the back end coverage wise, helping Wes with the calls, looking at formation shifts, personnel, just all that thing I'm getting to put my eyes on and say in. Some of it, I was already doing in the box but now [I'm] on the practice field having a little bit more say and having to be the voice with the players."

Conn commented on several players on Wednesday. 

On what he's seen from freshman safety Sherrod Covil Jr:

"Sherrod is playing really good. So, he is still learning, a lot to learn. But he's really exceeded my expectation with his speed and coverage ability. I knew he was a physical player but the way he can cover and his instincts being able to see things and read offenses is really special. He's gonna be a special player."

On the possible return of injured junior safety Tyler Venables, who made 33 tackles, three PBUs, and one interception in 2021:

"Well, we're hoping he'll be ready in August to come back. So he's very engaged in our meetings and he's played so many different positions over the years that he really loves to be fits inside and out. So, I'm expecting him to make a full recovery and be ready to go before we start summer practices."

Senior safety Jalyn Phillips, a six-game starter, who made 47 tackles with three PBUs in 2021:

"JP has been impressive. He stepped in. I feel like he's got a lot more confidence. He's a lot more seasoned right now. He's played a lot. He started in several games and he's really embraced his role. And what a game at the Cheez-It Bowl. He was fantastic. Had a great game. I think he had two pass breakups, had a few big hits in that game. He's come out this spring and really emerged as a leader of that group. Just eager and hungry to learn and get better. I think his coverage skills have gotten a lot better too."

Sophomore safety Andrew Mukuba, the 2021 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year:

"Mukuba's a special player and I mean, he's doing it at three different positions and picking up on it. All that knowledge. All that's going to do is just help him help us you to get new speed on the field at times when we need to and he's definitely improved a ton."

Sophomore cornerback Nate Wiggins:

"If you were able to watch the scrimmage today he's as good as anybody we've had since I've been here. He probably had three [or] four PBUs today and a pick six. He was all over the place.

"He's still a young player. Still learning what to do but he's got a great skill set, speed, change of direction. He's got a good feel for the game."

Freshman cornerback Toriano Pride:

"Toriano has been great. He's playing really well making plays. He had the other pick six today on third down. I think the thing I've been impressed with him is how much football knowledge he has. He understands leverage and when to tackle."

Freshman cornerback Jeadyn Lukus:

"Lukus is going to be great too. His athleticism -- He's huge. He's tall and long but he can jump and run and do all those things. It's exciting."

On whether he has a national championship-caliber defensive line:

"There's no question. Our defensive line is fantastic. As long as, they put in the work from now, till the time we start [but] there's work that needs to be done -- don't go reading our press clippings. We got a chance. But you got to put the work in. We go back to that 2018 defensive line. Those guys were different. They were special. They had great leadership. And this defensive line has that same thing about them. They have that same characteristic about them. And they got a lot of experience too."

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