By Heath Bradley.
By Heath Bradley
Clemson will lose two veteran linebackers at the conclusion of the 2013 season, and they are two players who have given a lot to Clemson during their career.
Corico Wright, who was a member of Dabo Swinney’s first recruiting class, spent most of his career as a starter before changing positions and finishing 2012 in a reserve role. For most players the change of position and playing time would cause a problem, for Wright it was an opportunity to lead. Wright used his new position as a chance to help lead a young talented group of linebackers, always putting the needs of the team ahead of his personal goals.
Willard, a redshirt senior, has logged many snaps for the Tigers and has become Clemson’s most consistent linebacker the last two years. A player who was not highly touted exiting high school, Willard has made it to where he is today on hard work and determination. He used his wrestling background to help physically understand how to take down opponents.
Willard plays with a fire inside him rarely see from such a quiet player off the field. His leadership on the field will be tough to replace.
The Tigers will return a host of talented linebackers for year two under Brent Venables in 2013. Spencer Shuey has emerged as a solid leader for the Tigers, offering a coaching presence on the field. His ability to gets players in the right positions pre-snap has paid huge dividends for the Tigers, helping the defense to improve as the season progressed.
He will be joined by Stephone Anthony and Quandon Christian who both logged a number of snaps in 2012, TCI expects Anthony to move to the position opened by the departure of Willard due to the emergence of Shuey at middle linebacker.
The Tigers will also look to see a trio of healthy Tigers on the field for the first time in 2013. Tony Steward spent most of 2012 getting back into playing shape after suffering two knee injuries in as many seasons. We expect to see Steward’s snaps increase next year.
The 2013 season will also see the return of Justin Parker, who missed the entire 2012 season due to a leg injury. His return will add another veteran presence to the linebacker corps. The player that many Clemson fans are excited to see is Kellen Jones, who had to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Jones followed Venables from Oklahoma and is expected to be a big addition.
What will be interesting to see is how a couple of in-state prospects fair in 2013. Lateek Townsend will look to earn playing time after being relegated to mostly special teams duty during his first two seasons as a Tiger, the same can be said for BJ Goodson who appeared on mostly special teams in 2012, but will look to become the next great Tiger from Lamar, SC.
The linebacker corps is one of the deepest positions for the Tigers, as they will also add three top caliber recruits in the class of 2013. It will be very interesting to see which of these Tigers, if any, avoid a redshirt. We at TCI expect Brent Venables to have these linebackers ready to play and make a major impact in 2013.