Isaiah Simmons believes he has something to prove this year for the Clemson Tigers. Despite leading the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense in tackles, the redshirt junior did not make a single all-conference or all-American team at the end of the year.
He also returns as the lone starter at linebacker from last year’s squad after Kendall Joseph graduated and Tre Lamar left a year early for the NFL.
Here is a look at Clemson’s depth chart at the strong-side linebacker/nickel back position heading into fall camp.
Isaiah Simmons, Jr., 6-2, 230 pounds: Simmons can play linebacker and safety. Once again, he will be the Tigers’ starting strong-side linebacker / nickel back, a move he made prior to the 2018 season. He is the most athletic player on Clemson’s roster. Last year, Simmons flourished in his role. He led a Clemson defense, ranked No. 1 in the country in scoring defense, in tackles. He posted a career-high 97 tackles. He also had 9.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and broke up seven passes and forced three fumbles. Simmons also had an interception against Louisville, which he returned 27 yards for a touchdown. His strip sack of the Pitt quarterback in the ACC Championship Game set up a touchdown as well.
Mike Jones, Fr., 6-0, 230 pounds: Jones really took a step forward in the spring. Clemson defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Venables is excited about Jones’ progress. He and head coach Dabo Swinney bragged about the redshirt freshman several times during the spring. Last year, Jones redshirted after playing in three games. He played against NC State, Louisville and Duke. He recorded three tackles against the Wolfpack in his college debut. In high school, Jones was listed as the No. 10 outside linebacker in the nation by ESPN and No. 15 outside linebacker by 247Sports. He played in Under Armour All-American Game after playing two years at IMG Academy in Florida. He led IMG to a No. 2 final national ranking and 9-0 record as a senior, and a No. 4 national ranking and an 11-0 record as a junior. He had 22 tackles, five tackles for loss, five pass breakups and a recovered fumble as a senior and 60 tackles and 13 sacks as a junior.