A look at Clemson’s 2021 depth chart heading into spring practice: SAM/Nickel back
In one of the more surprising moves this off-season, Mike Jones stunned everyone when he transferred out of Clemson to LSU. It was a move really no one saw coming.
But the Tigers have to move on and it is time for the next man to step up. That guy is sophomore linebacker Trenton Simpson, who started over Jones in the Sugar Bowl and two other games as well when Jones was out nursing a hamstring injury.
The Charlotte native recorded 32 tackles as a true freshman. He also had 6.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and forced a fumble. Besides the Sugar Bowl start, he also started against Boston College and Notre Dame.
Clemson defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Venables feels Simpson can be another Isaiah Simmons for the Tigers, a guy who can do it all at a high level. He already is ahead of where Simmons was as this point in his career from a mental standpoint and his body type is pretty close too.
The Tigers also signed two freshmen who they feel will provide depth behind Simpson this coming fall. Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, Jr., a five-star recruit according to ESPN, enrolled in school in January and will be available for spring practice, and Barrett Carter, a five-star safety they signed back in December, who many believe can come in and play the strongside linebacker position as well. But Carter is not on campus and plans to enroll at Clemson this summer.
TCI’s projected depth chart at SAM/Nickel heading into spring practice:
Trenton Simpson, So., 6-3, 225: Simpson is an explosive linebacker and edge rusher in Clemson’s defense. He is extremely athletic and showed late in the season he has the speed to cover tight ends, running backs and even slot receivers if he has to. He has the ability to cover the entire field. Will only get better as he gains experience and understands all of Venables’ defense. His four sacks last year were on par with the four sacks Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy recorded on the defensive line.
Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Fr., 6-2, 210: The son of former longtime NFL linebacker and four-time Pro Bowler Jeremiah Trotter Sr., Trotter Jr. is rated as a five-star prospect and ranked as the No. 1 linebacker in the 2021 class by ESPN for a number of reasons. Trotter’s best attribute may be his ability to diagnose plays, and he plays with very natural instincts. He has an excellent feel for blitzing and possesses the speed and skills to play in space. He is physical and makes his presence felt when tackling. He closes in on the ball quickly and strikes the ball carrier when he gets to the point of contact. Nicknamed the “Quiet Assassin” by Venables, Trotter is all about his business and simply puts his head down and goes to work.
Malcolm Greene, So., 5-11, 190: Greene will strictly be a nickel back when not playing the corner position, but the 5-foot-11, 190-pound rising sophomore can pack a punch. His energy was evident in the ACC Championship Game, helping a Clemson defense that held Notre Dame to season lows in points, total yards and rushing yards. The Richmond, Va., native tallied 18 tackles, 2.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks while playing in 12 games, including three starts in 2020.
–Gavin Oliver contributed to this story
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