Venables excited about ‘terrific’ newcomers at linebacker

Venables excited about ‘terrific’ newcomers at linebacker

Football

Venables excited about ‘terrific’ newcomers at linebacker

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Clemson is tasked with replacing two of its starting linebackers from the 2019 season in Chad Smith and Isaiah Simmons, but recently welcomed a trio of talented freshmen linebackers into the fold.

Sergio Allen, Kevin Swint and Trenton Simpson all enrolled early in January after signing with the Tigers in December.

All three are ranked as top-150 national prospects in the 2020 class by ESPN, and Clemson defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Brent Venables is happy to have them on board.

“It’s a terrific group of guys,” he said after they signed on Dec. 18. “They’ve all got great size, they can run, they’re strikers. Very instinctive. Come from terrific programs … They understand work, they understand commitment, they understand tradition, they understand standard. These are three terrific people off the field, high achievers in the classroom. All three of them, they’re A students and captains and very humble, appreciative, thankful guys that will terrorize you when they get onto the football field.”

Allen, ranked No. 149 nationally by ESPN, was a semifinalist for the high school Butkus Award and played in the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando on Jan. 2.

A four-year starter at Peach County High School in Fort Valley, Ga., Allen completed his 51-game high school career with 357 total tackles and ranks in the top five in school history in career tackles. The four-star prospect posted 45 tackles for loss, including 15 sacks, and 48 quarterback hurries.

“Very athletic — played tailback, tight end, a little wildcat quarterback in addition to being a terrific linebacker — and just brings a great skillset,” Venables said of Allen. “Very natural, instinctive player. Finds the football well. Terrific athlete that stays on his feet. Hard to knock off of his feet and really is explosive and can blitz very naturally. When it comes to timing, really good blitzers aren’t necessarily well coached. There’s some coaching involved with it – your angles and bluffing and disguising – but the best ones have a natural, instinctive feel about it and the timing, and Sergio has that.”

Swint, another four-star prospect, is ranked as the No. 139 overall player in the 2020 class by ESPN. He was a four-year starter, three-time team captain and two-time all-state selection at Carrollton (Ga.) High School, where he racked up 41.5 career sacks among his 359.5 total tackles.

Like Allen, Swint was a semifinalist for the high school Butkus Award.

“Kevin’s a guy, he’s a very physical player and he’s got a great skillset, been well coached,” Venables said. “Very naturally instinctive and understands pass rush and leverage and really closes to the football well. He’s got concrete in his helmet when he gets there.”

Last but not least, Simpson is a five-star prospect ranked among the top 12 players in the country by both Rivals (No. 11) and 247Sports (No. 12). He started his career at Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte as a running back before playing both running back and linebacker in his final two seasons there.

As a senior, Simpson led the Mallard Creek defensive with 20 sacks while also rushing for 371 yards and six touchdowns on 44 attempts. For his career, he ran for 799 yards and seven touchdowns with an 8.2-yard average per carry.

The Tigers made a move for Simpson late in the process, pulling the trigger on an offer right before the early signing period. He committed on Dec. 14 and signed four days later.

“He’s a guy that has a great deal of energy,” Venables said. “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.

“Just really excited. It’s amazing how quickly things have unfolded and developed with him, and just to know (he is on campus) with both Kevin and Sergio, what a threesome.”

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