Tre Lamar just looks the part of a middle linebacker. He physically looks the part and has the speed and vision to go from sideline to sideline every play.
While he was a regular contributor on special teams and got 102 snaps over 15 games last year, Lamar should take over for Kendall Joseph, who appears likely to replace Ben Boulware at the weak-side position.
An early enrollee in January 2016, Lamar’s play was limited last year because of a steep learning curve, but he still managed to rack of 22 tackles and one sack.
Throughout spring practice Lamar said that he wants to step up and 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,” Lamar 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 any indication of what is to come this year, the linebacker core should be just fine.
CHAD SMITH, 6-4, 239, REDSHIRT SOPHOMORE, MIKE. Smith brings similar intensity and physicality to Boulware’s, just in a much larger package. He has done a lot with the 20 snaps he played in his first year of eligibility after redshirting his freshman season.
Mainly contributing on special teams, he racked up 19 tackles and blocked a crucial punt in the Wake Forest game on his way to sharing the Special Teams Player of the Year with Tanner Muse.
Smith, who is listed as the co-starter in the middle heading into camp, possesses that game-changing big play ability that can’t be taught and has worked on combining his athleticism with knowledge and leadership over the spring.
“Communication and knowledge is my best part, and my biggest improvement is just bringing it to the field,” Smith said.
He should still see plenty of time on special teams this year regardless of how many snaps he gets on defense because of his motor and instincts.
KENDALL JOSEPH: 6-0, 230, REDSHIRT JUNIOR, WILL. Joseph spent all of last season at MIKE while veteran All-American captain Ben Boulware dominated in the WILL position. With Boulware playing his final game in the National Championship, Joseph will be moving into the WILL ‘backer spot.
Defensive coordinator Venables is a big fan of Joseph for his work ethic and selflessness in moving to the WILL this season. Last season, Joseph totaled 106 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss with 3.5 sacks. He also had an interception.
Joseph had eight tackles and a forced fumble against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal.
DORIAN O’DANIEL: 6-1, 215, REDSHIRT SENIOR, SAM. O’Daniel finally burst onto the scene last year and was exactly what the Tigers needed. He looks like a safety, but plays like a linebacker.
Venables will rely on the redshirt senior to help lead a talented but young linebacker corps after tallying 60 tackles, including 10.5 for a loss, and two and a half sacks while starting all 15 of Clemson’s games.
O’Daniel was instrumental in the Tigers’ first victory against Georgia Tech in Bobby Dodd Stadium since 2003, holding the Yellow Jackets’ potent triple-option rushing attack to just 95 yards. In that game alone he recorded eight tackles, two of them for a loss, and one sack. He has also been a special teams guru throughout his career in Death Valley.
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