Kendall Joseph admits it was a little strange going to practice for the first time on Thursday to open fall camp and not hearing that familiar voice that always got the defense charged up.
Of course, he is talking about former Clemson All-American Ben Boulware, who is now annoying the likes of Luke Kuechly and the Carolina Panthers as he attempts to make the Panthers’ 53-man roster.
“It is a little different,” Joseph said. “You don’t have that loud voice, that energy, but that is how college works. It is the next man up. We have to continue his legacy and play the game the way he would want us to play it and that is what we will do.”
Joseph will try to be one of the many guys the Tigers have on defense to replace Boulware’s leadership. As the veteran of the linebacking corps, he has earned that respect. Last year, the redshirt junior finished second on the team to Boulware with 124 tackles. He also shared the team lead with 13.5 tackles for loss and had 3.5 sacks.
“I have always been a leader,” Joseph said. “I have always worked hard. I’ve tried to be the rah-rah guy, but as I got older I had to talk more here and there. The guys respect me so I know I have the leadership of the defense and I will try to continue to do that this year.”
Joseph says he is not the only guy trying to lead the defense. Other guys like defensive end Clelin Ferrell, defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence, as well as safety Van Smith, have taken a more leadership role this year.
“There are plenty of guys who can lead,” he said. “We lead by committee so when a guy says something and feels the need to speak up, we respect him on defense and will all listen.
“It’s not that one guy is claimed the leader or anything like that. It is guys who have worked hard and have earned that respect.”
And that is what makes the dynamic of this year’s defense different than in years past. Some in the media and the fans think this year’s unit can possibly be one of the best defense’s Clemson has had, and many expect them to carry the team until the offense gets things going and finds replacements for Deshaun Watson, Wayne Gallman, Mike Williams, Artavis Scott and Jordan Leggett.
“We take pride in it, but we know we have to put the work in,” Joseph said. “We always pay respect to the 2014 defense because they were the number one defense so we know we can’t talk about being a great defense or a number defense, yet. We have to put the work in and we will see what happens.”
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