CLEMSON– One of the best things that a coach can say about one of his players is that he is steady, and that is the exact word that Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney thinks about when he mentions rising redshirt senior cornerback Ryan Carter.
Ryant Carter has been the most steady guy,” Swinney said. “You know exactly what you’ve got. He’s worked the boundary (corner) and the field (corner)–he’s our move guy.”
However, Carter was not always the “most steady guy” on the team, it took a redshirt year and then a year as a backup to mold him into the corner that he is today.
But for the Tigers’ head coach, seeing the transformation that has taken place in Carter is just one of the benefits of his chosen profession
“Early in his career, he was not very focused,” Swinney said. “He was not very committed. He was a little immature and now it is like talking to a grown man when I talk to him. Everything about him is different. His demeanor, his sense of urgency, his leadership. That is the best thing about my job, seeing that transformation.”
It is a transformation that turned Carter from a backup to a 13 game starter for the Tigers last season, and earning the defense’s Iron Man Award.
Last season, Carter saw his playing time and his production nearly triple from his first two seasons in a Clemson uniform. In 2017, he amassed 29 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, seven pass breakups and an interception.
It was his play and maturity over last season that has Carter firmly entrenched in a starting role for the Tigers, while a multitude of others battle for the one remaining starting cornerback spot.
“Talking about a lead–I’d say that Ryan Carter was terrific last year in a variety of roles that we used him,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “Had a very good year and was good in the winter conditioning, short-lived, but we think he can go again and we’re hopeful he will be ready to play how he did a year ago when he was really good.”
The key for Carter will be to respond the way the coaches expect him to through the offseason workouts and into fall camp, which for Swinney is something he would have been concerned about if this were two years ago.
But those worries about Carter’s work-ethic have now turned to confidence for the coaching staff.
‘Now, he is a grown man. He is confident, proven. It’s just maturity,” Swinney said. “It is his commitment. He’s a great teammate. He is a student of the game. He is one of the most knowledgeable players we have.
“Ryan Carter can play anywhere on our defense outside of linebacker. He can play either corner. He can play nickel. He can play dime. He can play either safety position. He is really that diverse of a player. He is a good football player. He is going to make it at the next level.”
For Carter, a large part of his maturity has been embracing the younger players on the team.
With the departure of cornerback Cordrea Tankersley, linebacker Ben Boulware, defensive lineman Carlos Watkins and safety Jadar Johnson from last years defense, Carter has taken it upon himself to help lead a younger group of defenders.
“I take my job very seriously as a leader on the defense,” Carter said. “I am trying to step up and be a leader for the younger guys, the same way that some of the older guys did when I got here. I’m just wanting to make sure that we have the best summer that we can have, so when we come back in the fall everyone is ready to go.”