He is probably the most unheralded player on the defense, but without him, Clemson might not be a national champion for a second time in three years.
At 6-foot, 235-pounds, Kendall Joseph is considered a little small for a linebacker. But that did not stop him from having another solid year. The Belton native finished second on the team with 81 tackles, including five tackles for loss. Of those five TFLs, four were sacks. He also had seven quarterback hurries.
And though his numbers earned Joseph third-team All-ACC honors, it is what the average fan does not notice that made Joseph so valuable in Brent Venables’ scheme. Joseph was responsible for calling the shifts and getting the Tigers’ ultra-talented defensive front lined up correctly.
With Joseph quarterbacking the defense, the 2018 defense became the first one in Clemson history to lead the nation in scoring defense, yielding just 13.1 points per game. The Tigers also led the nation in yards per rush allowed as well as in sacks and tackles for loss.
In the College Football Playoff, the Clemson defense was as dominate as ever. They held Notre Dame to 248 total yards and to three points in the Cotton Bowl victory, and then in the national championship game they shut out Alabama in the last 44 minutes, including three red zone stops in the second half.
“This is a different feeling,” Joseph said. “It is just so surreal. It is different. Me being an older player as well, it makes it a little bit different. But overall, putting all the work in and it paid off, it is a great feeling.”
Joseph was part of the greatest senior class in the history of college football. He and the rest of the seniors went 55-4 the last four years at Clemson, including a record four outright ACC Championships, five bowl wins and are the first senior class in ACC history to win two national championships as well.
“It is sad,” Joseph said about not being able to play with his senior teammates again. “We have to keep moving forward. I will stay in touch with all the guys. It is a brotherhood so it will carry on for life. It is not something that is temporary.”
Joseph finishes his Clemson career with 306 tackles, 23.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and eight sacks. He also had two interceptions and 39 quarterback pressures.