A look at Clemson’s 2021 depth chart heading into spring practice: Weakside linebacker
When Baylon Spector came to Clemson in 2017, he was recruited to play the strongside position. But later in the fall, he switched to the weakside where he has been pretty much since.
“It took me about a year, maybe a year and a half. I’m still learning. I mean, I am learning every day. I still make mistakes and I try to get better every single day,” he said last season. “So, it is a never-ending process and I continue to try and better myself and learn and watch as much as I can.”
Trusting the process allowed the graduate to earn the starting spot on the weakside, where he excelled in 2020 and became an All-ACC linebacker. Spector helped the Tigers lead the ACC in total defense and finished second in scoring defense. He also played a big role in why they tied for the national lead in sacks and finished second in tackles for loss.
But, as he admitted, the linebacker still has some room to grow. One of those areas is with his size. He reported to camp last fall weighing 232 pounds, which Spector was okay with, but he wanted to be a little bigger. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic had a different idea.
“I was right where I wanted to be (in the spring),” he said. “I wanted to gain good strength, but with COVID and us being sent home and not having the availability of the (right) food and the access to food that we do here, it was definitely hard and made it a lot tougher. I was about 232 and wanted to get up to about 236 or 238 and somewhere in that range and just be lean, but I’m still where I was back then.
“It is huge, but again, I have another year to come back and work on that.”
TCI’s projected depth chart at weakside linebacker heading into spring practice:
Baylon Spector, *SR., 6-2, 230: Spector shined in his first year as a starter. He led the Tigers with 72 tackles, good enough to earn second-team All-ACC honors by the Associated Press. The All-ACC Academic selection also had 10.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including 4.5 sacks. Spector also forced two fumbles, recovered one and broke up a pass. He logged in 517 snaps in 12 games, including 11 starts.
Keith Maguire, *So., 6-2, 230: A reserve linebacker in 2020, Maguire played in 11 games last season, while tallying 16 tackles. The rising sophomore also contributed with three tackles for loss, a forced fumble and one pass breakup. During his true freshman season, he also snagged an interception, though he played just nine snaps in four games before being redshirted.
LaVonta Bentley, *Fr., 6-0, 235: His play at Virginia Tech proved just how good Bentley can be. He is a hard-hitting linebacker, who is not afraid to punish runners. He recorded four tackles, including 1.5 sacks that December night in Blacksburg. He even caused a fumble in the Tigers’ blowout victory. Bentley finished the season with 16 tackles overall, including 4.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks.
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