Clemson head coach excited to see his young players get their opportunity
When Shaq Smith decided he was going to transfer out of the Clemson football program, Dabo Swinney admitted he was surprised.
“We did not see that coming,” the Tigers’ head coach said. “But he felt like that was what he needed to do. We wish him well. I mean, he was a model in every aspect of our program, so I certainly hate to lose him, but that does not dampen our spirits for who we have at the linebacker position.”
Personally, Swinney thinks this year’s back seven is just not the strength of the defense, but he thinks it might be the best back seven he has had to date in Tigertown. That is saying a lot considering the number of linebackers and defensive backs the program has in NFL training camps this summer.
“I’m just really excited about the personnel that we have,” he said. “We will have a little younger depth at linebacker, but I think we are athletic. I think we have guys that can run. We have guys that know how to play the game. It is going to be really good group.”
Swinney likes the veterans he has in place, too. Isaiah Simmons is a preseason All-American candidate at strong side linebacker. He thinks James Skalski will introduce himself to college football fans this year at middle linebacker, while Chad Smith will bring a strong senior presence to the group as the weak side backer position.
“Isaiah, Skalski and Chad, that’s a pretty good start point to go out there,” Swinney said. “Skalski is one of those guys … the football world does not really know who Skalski is, but if he stays healthy, they will. He is a really good football player. It is just a matter of time before everyone knows that.”
As for the younger players, Swinney said redshirt freshman Jake Venables—the son of Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables—had as good of a spring as anyone in the program, while he is also excited about other young players like Baylon Spector and Mike Jones, who have really come along.
The Tigers also welcome in freshmen linebackers LeVonta Bentley, Bryton Constantin, Keith Maguire, Kane Patterson and Greg Williams to the group.
“You throw in these young guys that we have, it is going to be fun to watch Brent mold that group,” Swinney said. “I love the group that we have. I think we have everything we need to be very successful there.”