By Brentson Buckner.
Former Clemson Tiger and 12 year NFL defensive tackle Brentson Buckner is doing a weekly column with TheClemsonInsider.com. Brentson will share his thoughts on the Clemson football program, provide in-depth analysis and unique perspective on the Tigers. In this edition the former Super Bowl champ discusses the impact of recruiting as signing day approaches!
I think the biggest needs for this recruiting class are offensive line and linebackers. Let’s start off with the linebackers. I think that is the weak spot of the defense last year. Hawkins will develop into a good player, but I think we need some athletic guys there, athletic difference makers. That is what Clemson has always been built upon defensively is athletic guys. Clemson used to have a formula for linebackers. They would recruit guys that were good athletes and make them into linebackers. Guys like Wayne Simmons who was a wide receiver in high school. Guys like Levon Kirkland who played wide receiver and different positions. When those guys became linebackers because of their athletic ability it was always a mismatch for people.
I think a guy like Stephone Anthony could come in and be a big help for us.
The reason Clemson has struggled to get the top linebackers over the past ten years is all about the perception. Clemson used to be considered linebacker U with Clemson and Miami. Now guys don’t make it to the next level at that position. Kids say where should I go where it will help me get to the next level at linebacker.
I think coach Steele’s NFL background is a big help, it sure doesn’t hurt. I would think he could draw on that but you have so many schools. If I am a linebacker that comes out of a top school and I am one of the top ones when Pete Carroll was at Southern Cal that was one of the top places. Right now if you look at Alabama they just plug in linebackers. You would think coach Steele’s NFL experience would help but I think it all comes down to recruiting.
This class is real important to the future of the program. The way recruiting is going now, especially in the ACC, you can’t miss out on guys. You can’t fall behind. We are seeing a resurgence by Florida State. They are getting the best guys out of Florida left and right, some from all around the country really. Butch Davis and North Carolina have become a strong recruiter in the ACC. You always have Miami so this is a real important recruiting class because of the gaps that Clemson has to fill.
One of the reasons Clemson really struggled was at wide receivers. They missed on receivers in a couple of classes and they had to depend on a Nuke Hopkins to come in and be way ahead of his time. He is a good talent, but I think he would have been better served red-shirting if they had some wide receivers there that they didn’t miss on. When you have gaps in recruiting you always hurt your team.
One of the biggest challenges for them next year will be at receiver. They are going to be young at that position. They need to get those guys and get them acclimated to college and get them up to par as quick as possible. If they can do that it will help relieve some of the pressure off the most important position on the football field which is the quarterback. We will have a young quarterback and if you don’t have wide receivers that are up to par and can make plays you are going to struggle. But those wide receivers that are coming in I have been reading about them and seeing film on them. Those kids can have all of the ability in the world but can you get them to translate that to college because now the game speeds up and the terminology is different. How quick can they get in there and go.
I don’t believe in those star ratings. Just give me a football player. You see guys that are five stars that never end up playing and you see guys that aren’t rated high and have never been to a combine that end up being a first round draft pick. I don’t buy into all that. Just give me a football player. The one thing I hate about the star system is all it takes is for a big name school to offer or show interest and that effects the star rating. Alabama offered him a scholarship so he must be a five star guy because they only recruit five star guys. Give me a break. There could be a guy in South Georgia or the low country of South Carolina that never went to a combine and never did all of that, but you put him on a football field and he can play as good as any five start guy you have out there. So I don’t believe in that. A football player is a football player.
I coached in that private school league for a couple of years where Colton Walls played. He has the pedigree and he has the size. I personally don’t think linebacker is his position for college. I see him more as an H-back or fullback type of guy but you never know. He could play there if they run that 3-4 hybrid defense that Kevin Steele likes to run. You need a guy that can stop the run but also play coverage. Like I said earlier that is where Clemson was exposed this year. Teams would take the linebackers into coverage because you had kids that were good in one area but not the other.