One of the number one concerns for Clemson heading into the 2018 football season is who will replace Dorian O’Daniel at strongside linebacker.
One could argue O’Daniel might be the best strongside backer Clemson has ever seen. He could play the position like no one else in today’s game. Not only could he stick his nose in the middle of things and stuff a ball carrier, but he also could cover slot receivers, tight ends and running backs and he could blitz with the best of them.
O’Daniel put the “hybrid” in hybrid linebacker.
In 2017 O’Daniel earned First-Team All-American honors by Sports Illustrated and was a second-team selection by the Associated Press. The Butkus Award Finalist led the Tigers with 104 tackles, including 11.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, six quarterback pressures and returned two interceptions for touchdowns. He also had three passes broken up.
However, O’Daniel has moved on after being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2018 NFL Draft. Clemson has moved on as well, and it hopes it found another hybrid backer in Isaiah Simmons, who spent all of last season at free safety.
The redshirt sophomore will head into fall camp as the first-team strongside backer / nickel back on the depth chart, ahead of senior Jalen Williams and freshman Mike Jones.
Though raw, Simmons received good reviews in the spring from head coach Dabo Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables. Simmons said there was a lot to learn at the start of spring, but by the end of the 15 practices he felt better about where he was and was more comfortable with what he was doing.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound sophomore is one of the more athletic players on the Clemson roster. He can play either safety position and has the build to play linebacker as well.
Last year, Simmons had 49 tackles, even though he did not start a game. He played in 12 games and broke up five passes. He also had three tackles for loss and one sack.
Clemson will begin fall camp in August. The Tigers open the new season on Sept. 1 against Furman at Death Valley.
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