Spring Preview: Is Spector the man at WILL linebacker?

Spring Preview: Is Spector the man at WILL linebacker?

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Spring Preview: Is Spector the man at WILL linebacker?

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Competition is wide open at weakside linebacker as the Tigers head into spring practice next Wednesday.

Redshirt junior Baylon Spector should be the frontrunner and will get the opportunity to start with the first-team defense. However, redshirt freshmen Keith Maguire and LaVonta Bentley will also get their opportunities to show what they can.

Clemson defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Venables has the task of having to replace senior Chad Smith on the weakside. Smith finished fourth on the team with 80 tackles, including 5.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks to go along with eight quarterback pressures.

Last year, Clemson’s defense finished third nationally in scoring defense (13.5 pts./game) and sixth overall in total defense (288.3 yds/game). The Tigers also finished second in tackles for loss and were in the top 10 nationally in several other defensive categories.

Here is a look at what the Clemson depth chart could look like at the weakside linebacker position going into spring practice. The Tigers start spring practice next Wednesday.

Baylon Spector, *Jr., 6-1, 230: Spector recorded the first two sacks of his career in the Tigers’ Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State last December. In the 30 games he has played in, he has recorded 53 tackles, including seven tackles for loss. He has also forced a fumble and recovered two of them. Venables has said many times Spector reminds him of Ben Boulware due to his instincts and his fearless attitude. As a backup in 2019, he tallied 45 tackles, including six for loss and two sacks, while playing in all 15 games.

Keith Maguire, *Fr., 6-2, 220: Maguire will likely play the strongside too this spring. Though he is a redshirt freshman, he is wise beyond his years. Venables likes his mental makeup and his ability to read offenses. He redshirted last year and played in just four games, but he did have one interception in those four games. A talented former 4-star linebacker, Maguire ranked as the best player in Pennsylvania by some services in 2018. He led his team to a third straight Inter-AC Championship in a row as a senior. He had 106 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, five sacks and four interceptions in his last year of high school.

LaVonta Bentley, *Fr., 6-0, 235: Bentley redshirted in 2019 as well. He will likely help at middle linebacker in the spring. He was rated as the No. 177 overall player by Rivals.com, who also saw him as the ninth-best inside linebacker and eighth-best player from Alabama coming out of high school in 2018. A former 4-star prospect, Bentley had a strong senior year with 118 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, four passes broken up. He won Lineman of the Year by the Birmingham Quarterback Club and was named the Defensive Player of the Year in Birmingham, Alabama.

Sergio Allen, Fr., 6-1, 217: Allen enrolled at Clemson in the January so he could participate in spring drills. He is likely to also see time at the SAM linebacker position this spring as well. Allen was a consensus top 200 player nationally who is rated among the top 10 players in the country at his position by ESPN and 247Sports. He played linebacker all four years in high school. He completed his 51-game high school career with 357 total tackles, including 222 solo hits. He ranks in the top five in school history in career tackles. He also posted 45 tackles for loss, including 15 sacks and 48 quarterback hurries. He was named to the 2019 preseason Super 11 team by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, one of the top honors for Atlanta area football players.

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