In honor of a new era in Clemson football, I will be unveiling my all-time Clemson football team in a three part series. Considering the depth of football talent that has graced the Clemson gridiron, the task of compiling a single team of all-time greats was not easy.
Having said that, here are my selections for Clemson's all-time head coach, defensive coordinator, and defense. The coaches selected both led Clemson to an undefeated season, and all eleven defensive starters received All-American honors at least once in their collegiate careers.
Without further delay, the best of the best in Clemson football history:
Head Coach: Danny Ford
Picking a head coach for this all-time team other than Frank Howard was difficult, even painful. Having said that, Clemson has a solitary national championship, and Danny Ford won it. Ford received national coach of the year honors for his work that season, and his .760 winning percentage remains highest for any coach in Clemson history who coached over five seasons.
Defensive Coordinator: Frank Howard
Frank Howard is essentially the heart and soul of Clemson football. He coached the Tigers for 39 years and is now buried on cemetery hill, just above the stadium that shares his name. His defenses were once the scourge of the Southeast, and he loved Clemson University like no other.
“I love this place...I've got a spot already picked out where I want 'em to put me when I die—up there on that ole hill near the stadium. I want to be there so I can hear all them people cheering my Tigers on Saturdays…then I won't have to go to Heaven; I'll already be there.”
Defensive Ends: Gaines Adams and Levon Kirkland
Gaines Adams was a force to be reckoned with in the pass rush, tying the Clemson career record for sacks. He was only the second unanimous All-American in Clemson history.
Levon Kirkland landed his spot on the all Clemson team for his two selections as an All American and his fearsome physique.
Defensive Tackles: William Perry and Michael Dean Perry
It’s a shame the Perry brothers weren’t twins because they would have undoubtedly been the best DT combo in the history of college football. William (the fridge) Perry set the Clemson and ACC records for career sacks and the ACC record for career tackles for a loss. Michael Dean followed in his brother William’s footsteps and in the process, broke all three of those records.
Linebackers: Jeff Davis, Anthony Simmons, and Keith Adams
Adams was a two time first team All-American and finished third all time for Clemson career sacks, only trailing the Perry brothers.
With Defensive MVP honors at the 1981 Orange Bowl National Championship and most Clemson career caused fumbles, Jeff Davis (the judge) struck fear in the hearts of opposing running backs.
Named an All-American and All-ACC three years in a row, Anthony Simmons did enormous damage to opposing offenses and did it all before forgoing his senior year for the NFL.
Cornerbacks: Tye Hill and Donnell Woolford
Tye Hill brought consistency and high quality play to the table, week in and week out. He never missed a single game in four years of college and finished his senior year as an All-American first-round draft pick.
Woolford gained consensus All-American honors in 1987 and 1988 and was drafted as the 11th overall pick by the Chicago Bears.
Safeties: Terry Kinard and Brian Dawkins
As the first unanimous All-American in Clemson history, Kinard was instrumental in Clemson’s National Championship defense. He gained All-American honors in 1981 and '82.
Perhaps the most talented current NFL Clemson player, Dawkins was no pushover at the collegiate level. He received All-American honors in 1995 and once intercepted three passes in a single quarter.