Shaq Smith was going to be Clemson’s starter at weakside linebacker heading into fall camp, but with his sudden decision to transfer to Maryland, the Tigers will have to reshuffle things at linebacker.
With Smith now gone, James Skalski will likely move over to WILL and will be the starter heading into camp. Chad Smith is likely the starter at middle linebacker where Baylon Spector is expected to be his backup.
Here is what the depth chart at weakside linebacker will look like heading into fall camp.
James Skalski, Jr., 6-0, 245 pounds: Skalski is a lot like former Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware. He plays bigger than his size and he plays with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. He is the prototypical linebacker for Brent Venables. The junior enters 2019 with 61 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, while playing in 30 games in his career. He suffered an injury in camp last year that forced him to miss most of the year and was redshirted. Due to new NCAA rules regarding redshirting, he returned late in the season, playing in the ACC Championship Game and in the National Championship Game. He also played against Georgia Tech earlier in the year for an injured Kendall Joseph. He finished that game with six tackles, including one for a loss. Skalski was an All-ACC Academic selection in 2017. He played in all 14 games and recorded 37 tackles and two tackles for loss as a reserve player.
Jake Venables, Fr., 6-1, 225 pounds: Venables moves up the depth chart and will have to play a good bit this coming season. He redshirted last season after playing in two games. The son of defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Venables, Jake was the No. 29 linebacker in the nation by 247Sports and No. 32 linebacker by Rivals. He played at nearby Daniel High School in Central, South Carolina where he earned a Shrine Bowl selection. He was also an all-region selection as a senior after he had 70 tackles, 22 tackles for loss and five sacks. Jake was a three-year starter at Daniel.