College football notebook: Clemson’s defensive line dominates scrimmage

Ohio State has a solid counter-argument, but Clemson might have the best defensive line in the country.

That talented front was on display Saturday as the defending national champion Tigers held their first scrimmage of fall camp. The defense overall had 14 tackles for losses, including seven sacks.

Returning All-American defensive tackle Christian Wilkins made five tackles, two for losses. Another first-round prospect for 2018 — defensive end Clelin Ferrell — made three tackles for loss, including a sack. Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year last season, had four stops. End Austin Bryant made two sacks.

“We played well on both sides of the ball today, but the defense was more consistent,” coach Dabo Swinney said afterward. “I think we’re going to have good depth, real strength in numbers over there.”

Clemson has seven returning starters on defense, which doesn’t include Bryant, who missed the first six games of last season because of a foot injury.

While the defense is expected to remain at a championship level, the Tigers’ biggest question is at quarterback, where there is ongoing competition to replace Deshaun Watson. The front-runner is junior Kelly Bryant, who spent most of his playing time Saturday going against the first-team defense.

Bryant threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, but Swinney didn’t blame Bryant for the tipped pass, because a blocker failed to cut the defensive end who got his hands on the pass.

“Kelly had a couple of tough breaks,” Swinney said. “He made the right decisions, did what we asked him to do, and that is what we’re evaluating him on.”

–Alabama held its first scrimmage, which was closed to the media.

“We have a lot of young players at a lot of positions that can certainly benefit from the first time under the fire,” coach Nick Saban said. “And we had some older guys that played really, really well in this scrimmage. So we have to try to build on that.”

Two of the young guys are five-star offensive tackles Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Wills. Leatherwood has been working with the second team at right tackle behind sophomore Matt Womack; Wills also has been working at right tackle.

“I think both those guys have done well in practice,” Saban said. “We think both of those guys have potential to help us.”

–Texas junior running back Chris Warren did not participate in Saturday’s scrimmage after suffering a concussion earlier in the week, coach Tom Herman said.

It’s the latest setback for Warren, who was limited by an ankle injury in 2015 and then hamstring and knee problems last season. A hamstring injury kept him out for most of spring practice, and he was affected by a mumps outbreak on campus this summer.

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Warren has four career starts, including two last season, when he rushed 62 times for 366 yards in four games. Sophomore running back Kyle Porter has often worked with the first team in camp, with Herman mentioning Saturday the need for true freshman Toneil Carter and Daniel Young to be ready to play.

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