Most of the players in Clemson’s 2020 signing class have already arrived on campus and started their college careers.
Fifteen of the Tigers’ 23 signees enrolled early in January, giving themselves a chance to get ahead of the game and enabling them to go through spring practice as they look to make an instant impact in the fall.
In the fourth installment of our Impact Freshmen series detailing Clemson’s midyear enrollees, The Clemson Insider takes an in-depth look at linebacker Trenton Simpson.
Hometown (High School): Charlotte, North Carolina (Mallard Creek)
Height, Weight: 6-3, 224
Prospect ratings/rankings: 5-star, No. 1 OLB, No. 1 state, No. 11 national (Rivals); 5-star, No. 1 OLB, No. 1 state, No. 12 national (247Sports); 4-star, No. 9 OLB, No. 3 state, No. 92 national (ESPN)
High school stats/accolades: Played in Under Armour All-America Game on January 2, 2020 in Orlando … listed as the top player in North Carolina by the Charlotte Observer … named first-team postseason All-American by Sports Illustrated … as a senior, helped his team to a 10-1 record and No. 3 ranking in the state of North Carolina according to MaxPreps … started his high school career as a running back, playing both running back and linebacker in 2018 and 2019 … led the Mallard Creek defense with 20 sacks … had 44 carries for 371 yards and six touchdowns … for his career, recorded 97 carries for 799 yards and seven touchdowns with 8.2-yard average per carry
Strengths: Simpson is well-built and super talented with his size, length and outstanding athleticism. He is fast and a smooth but explosive runner that has the range to make plays from sideline to sideline, while also showing proficiency as a pass-rusher coming off the edge to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Simpson is a strong cover linebacker as well that has no problem matching up against tight ends, slot receivers and running backs. In fact, Simpson played a lot of running back in high school, and the speed and physicality he ran with translates to the defensive side of the ball. He is a hard-hitter that doesn’t shy away from contact and likes to lay the wood upon reaching the ballcarrier. Simpson has a nose for the football and is an all-around playmaker with all the tools to play on Sundays in the future. He is also a high-energy, high-effort player and a greater leader with high character off the field as well.
How he fits in: With the departures of senior linebacker Chad Smith and junior linebacker Isaiah Simmons, the door looks to be open for Simpson to see the field early as a true freshman in the fall. Simpson did not begin playing linebacker until his junior season in 2018, but he is a natural defender who has made strides in his development since then. Enrolling early in January and going through spring practice should help Simpson learn the playbook and familiarize himself with Brent Venables’ scheme. Although linebacker is a difficult position to step right in and play at for the Tigers, Simpson has the ability to do it and we believe he can make immediate contributions next season.
Coach speak: Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables on Simpson –“He’s a guy that has a great deal of energy. Just a very positive, outgoing, upbeat, natural leader. Very talented, explosive, rangy. He’s a vicious, violent player when the ball snaps and very natural on the defensive side of the ball. I think he went for 250-plus yards against Dutch Fork, state champion here in South Carolina, at the beginning of the year — a field that there’s a lot of talented players, and he was easily the best player on the field in that game.”
TCI’s previous Impact Freshmen articles:
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