This past spring, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables did his best to give his linebackers a good look at all three positions.
The release of the summer depth chart last month reflected such. Tre Lamar, not Kendall Joseph, heads into fall training camp—which begins on Aug. 4—as the co-starter at middle linebacker with Chad Smith. Joseph has moved over to the weak side where he is penciled in as the starter.
Over at the strongside position, senior Dorian O’Daniel has locked down his spot with Jalen Williams serving as his backup. Former five-star recruit Shaq Smith is listed as the third-team weakside linebacker behind junior J.D. Davis and sophomore James Skalski, who are second team. Judah Davis is backing up Lamar and Chad Smith in the middle.
“I think (Venables) just wanted to see new people in new positions,” Joseph said after the spring. “With me playing at WILL means you can throw other players at MIKE. So we’re doing a lot of cross training, but I definitely think he wanted to see me and Tre on the field at the same time to see how it looked.”
With Ben Boulware now playing for the Carolina Panthers, Joseph moves into his spot on the weak side, which makes a lot of sense. During the spring, Joseph played about 50 percent of the time on the weakside and the other 50 percent in the middle. However, in the last week before the Tigers broke camp, he played primarily at weakside backer.
“It’s alright. I’m getting the hang of it so it’s just learning the ins and outs of it,” the redshirt junior said. “I can relate to it from playing MIKE and just knowing the defense. Knowing the ins and outs of it and knowing the small things about the position that really make you good at the position. I’m still learning.”
Joseph says playing at weakside linebacker will not change the way he plays or calls the defense or anything of that nature.
“It’s the same thing as last year,” he said. “Being able to stream the calls … It doesn’t matter who’s out there, we are all streaming the calls so it will still be on me to set up the defense and make sure everyone is in the right spot.”
As for Lamar, Joseph said he looked comfortable and the two are working well together.
“He does well. I mean he’s learning and getting more comfortable and you can see the confidence in him,” Joseph said. “He’s setting the front and screaming the defensive calls and communicating. He looks comfortable and he’s a really good middle linebacker.”
Last year, Joseph finished second on the team with 124 tackles, while tying for a team-high 13.5 tackles for loss. He also had 3.5 sacks and 16 quarterback pressures to go along with one interception.
“I think it’s good, with me learning WILL and just understanding the whole defense and the scheme better,” the Belton, S.C., native said. “Because I have to open my book back up … at MIKE I was pretty comfortable and had it nearly all the way down, but at WILL I’m learning what the free safety does and the bouncing corner. I just really understand the whole defense. I think it’s just overall helping me with my knowledge.”
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