The Clemson Insider gives a scouting report on every player on Clemson’s summer depth chart. We will break down what the player does best, what he needs to work on, how he compares to other former players at his position and where he fits on the Clemson roster.
Player name: James Skalski (6-0, 235)
Player position: Linebacker (weak side)
Years left of eligibility: 3 years
Current rank on depth chart: Co-Second team
Player productivity so far: Skalski was a valuable member of Clemson’s special teams as a true freshman in 2016. He produced 14 tackles in 20 snaps in 14 games. More than half of his tackles came on special teams as he finished with 8 as a part of the coverage units.
What player does best: Skalski is a hard hitting linebacker who finds the football very well. He is very fundamentally sound. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said many times last year that Skalski reminded him a lot of Ben Boulware.
What player needs to work on: Like Boulware, he is not fastest guy in the world so he will need to improve on his coverage skills.
Productivity of former Clemson players at the position (first year and last):
Spencer Shuey, 2013: In his one year playing the weakside, he was second on the team with 119 tackles. He had 7.5 tackles for loss with one sack and 4 passes broken up.
Tony Steward, 2014: In his only season as a starter, Steward was third on the team with 73 tackles and was tied for second with 10 tackles for loss. He had 3.5 sacks and broke up one pass.
B.J. Goodson, 2015: In his one year playing the weakside position, he led the Tigers with 160 tackles and was third on the team with 14 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He had 5.5 sacks and 3 passes broken up. He also had 2 interceptions.
Ben Boulware, 2016: In his one year playing the weakside position fulltime, he led the Tigers with 131 tackles. He was fourth on the squad with 11.5 tackles for loss. He had 4 sacks and 12 quarterback pressures. He also broke up two passes and had one interception. At the end of the year he won the Jack Lambert Award as the nation’s best linebacker and was an All-American.
What can you hope for? You hope Venables is right and Skalski plays like Ben Boulware. Venables described Skalski as someone who plays with the same fire, attitude and determination as Boulware did when he was a true freshman.
What is a realistic expectation?While it’s unfair to expect a breakout year from him as it is only his second season at Clemson, Skalski used last season and this spring to gain a better understanding of the linebacker position.
What about the future? Skalski has an unquestioned love for the game and his drive and passion will get him playing time regardless of who is playing in front of him, and he could also see time at the other two linebacker positions as well. Who knows, we might even see him kick the football off if the coaches need him to.
—Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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