His return solidifies the middle of Clemson’s defense
When people discuss Clemson’s 2018 defense it usually begins and ends with its talented front four, and deservedly so. It is not every day one team returns four All-Americans, including three first-team sections.
In January, Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant all decided they were returning to school instead of going to the NFL a year early. It’s a move that got everyone excited about the defense’s potential this coming season.
But Clemson is more than just about its defensive front. The Tigers are also very talented and deep at linebacker, a stature that was only enhanced when another player decided to return to Clemson for his senior year.
Kendall Joseph, an All-ACC selection in 2017, contemplated going pro for a little while last year, too. However, with little fanfare, the Belton, S.C., native returned to quarterback Brent Venables defense for one more year.
“Kendall Joseph is back,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney exclaimed. “Not many people ask me about Kendall Joseph, but he is as good of a linebacker as we have had in my nine years. Brent has not been here all nine years, but he has been here for a bunch of them and he will probably tell you the same thing.”
Joseph has finished second on the team in tackles in each of the last two seasons, including 124 in 2016 when he played middle linebacker. Though he missed two games last season, the 6-foot, 225-pound senior still recorded 87 tackles.
“The guy is smart and crafty,” Swinney said. “He is very instinctive. He is a good tackler. He is a good teammate.”
Joseph played the weakside or WILL linebacker position last year. When fall camp begins Friday, he will begin as the Tigers’ co-starter at middle linebacker, sharing the spot with Tre Lamar.
With Joseph’s return, along with Lamar, and Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence at defensive tackle, the middle of Clemson’s defense is as good or as better than any defense in the country.
“He can play MIKE or WILL. He is a really good football player in the middle that has a chance to be a quarterback of the defense,” Swinney said. “Kind of like a baseball team, when you are strong up the middle, you probably got a chance, right? I think we are going to be that way with those guys.”
Hot off the press. ‘Back with a Vengeance’ is now available for online orders. TCI takes an in-depth look at the upcoming season as the Tigers march towards another national championship. Order your copy today!