When Clemson opens fall training camp on Aug. 4, one of the more intriguing position battles on the roster is who will fill the role at middle linebacker.
Kendall Joseph, last year’s starter, has moved over to the weak side where he is penciled in to replace Ben Boulware, who is now trying to make the Carolina Panthers’ roster. With Joseph on the weak side, it leaves the door open for sophomores Tre Lamar and Chad Smith to battle for the starting job in the middle.
Lamar and Smith both shared most of the work in the middle this past spring with Joseph getting a good bit as well. Judah Davis also worked in the middle and is listed as the third-team middle linebacker on the summer depth chart.
Lamar said this past spring he was competing with a laundry list of players in the middle.
“We have a lot coming back and I’m excited about what we are going to look like this year,” the former five-star said.
Last year, Lamar played in all 15 games as a true freshman, mostly on special teams, as he recorded 22 tackles, had 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack. He had seven tackles overall on special teams.
Lamar (6-3, 240) looks the part of a middle linebacker. He physically looks the part and has the speed and vision to go from sideline-to-sideline on every play.
While he was a regular contributor on special teams, he recorded 102 snaps in the 15 games he played in. An early enrollee in January 2016, Lamar’s play was limited last year because of a steep learning curve under defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Venables.
Throughout the spring Lamar stepped up and was trying to be that guy to help ease the loss of Boulware, who for the past two seasons has been the defense’s leader.
“Someone has to step (to replace Ben), and I’m going to try and be that guy,” he said.
The former No. 2 ranked linebacker by ESPN coming out of high school will get his chance to be that leader this season, and if his six tackles in the spring game are indications of what is to come this year, the linebacker core should be just fine.