For Clemson linebacker James Skalski, it all comes in due time.
“Just be patient and keep working and everything will work out,” he said.
Prior to the 2018 season, James Skalski talked with the Clemson coaching staff about the potential of redshirting. Per the new NCAA rules he would have been able to participate in four games and maintain a redshirt.
He planned to play more in 2018, but a foot injury changed his plans to get more playing time. The move ended up paying off for the junior.
Now Skalski is slated to start at weakside linebacker with some experience under his belt and is prepared to step up in a leadership role for a thin and unexperienced linebacker group with a better comfort level with the playbook.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told the media Monday that Skalski is somebody the college football world doesn’t know yet, but believes they will know him soon.
Skalski responded humbly to his head coach’s comments.
“That’s quite the compliment, I think what he means is that a guy who has been learning the last three years from guys who performed at a really high level is ready for the big life and I hope I can live up to that,” Skalski said.
The Sharpsburg, Georgia native missed all but four games due to injury last season, earning a redshirt in his third year. But, he has significant experience in a Tiger uniform playing 232 snaps and recording 61 tackles, 1.5 sacks and five tackles-for-loss.
He has learned a lot from other great Clemson linebackers in his three seasons under the radar, with just two starts, lessons he hopes will translate going forward in his career as a starter.
“J.D. Davis helped me a lot with the mental aspect of the game. Kendall Joseph, Tre Lamar and Shaq Smith came in with me and I love those guys,” Skalski said. “We are a really tight group so everybody really helped me.”
The closeness of the unit will be a major factor moving forward for a unit that returns just those two starts, outside of junior Isaiah Simmons’ 14. The nation is watching to see how the Clemson defense will react to the loss of seven starters on that side of the ball.
Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables seem to think they will be just fine and Skalski will have a lot to do with the unit’s success going forward.