With Skalski out, what is next for Clemson at middle linebacker?

With Skalski out, what is next for Clemson at middle linebacker?

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With Skalski out, what is next for Clemson at middle linebacker?

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Clemson’s defense suffered a huge loss Tuesday when head coach Dabo Swinney announced the Tigers will go a few more games without starting middle linebacker James Skalski.

The fifth-year senior missed last week’s win over Syracuse due to a groin injury. On Monday night, an MRI revealed Skalski had a worse injury than they originally thought, so he will have to have a scope to repair the damage.

Skalski has already been ruled out for this Saturday’s game against Boston College and he will most likely miss the game at Notre Dame on Nov. 7.

“You just hate it for Jamie. He is a senior and he is a great player,” Swinney said. “It is hard to replace what he brings as a fifth-year senior. He is as good as it gets in college football in my opinion. It is tough to lose a guy like that, he is truly the heart and soul of our defense.

“But we have other guys that will step in and they will do a great job for us while he is out. We will get him back. We just don’t know how many games he is going to miss before he can get back out there and do it. So, we will see.”

Those guys who will have to step in and fill Skalski’s void are Jake Venables, Keith Maguire, Kane Patterson and LaVonta Bentley. Venables, who is second on the team with 29 tackles, started last week’s game in the place of Skalski and recorded seven tackles and a half tackle for loss, while playing 50 snaps.

Baylon Spector, who leads the Tigers with 35 tackles, shared some of the responsibilities with Venables in terms of calling plays and making sure everyone was lined up correctly. That type of communication is something Clemson will need against an Eagles team that will show a lot of different formations

“(Venables) did a great job for us last week and he really played well for us. He and Spec, they did an awesome job,” Swinney said. “This is a game, especially to have a guy (with experience). They are a challenge (formational wise) and schematically in what they do. Lot of motions and shifts and things you have to be able to process. Definitely thankful we have a veteran guy like Jake, who really understands and gets it.

“Listen, this creates more opportunities for Maguire, Kane and LaVonta Bentley. These guys have been working and grinding. They are prepared to be able to play more as well.”

Maguire has played 66 snaps this season, while Patterson has played 53 and Bentley 47.

Clemson (6-0, 5-0 ACC) will host Boston College at noon on Saturday.

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