Competition at linebacker heating up

Competition at linebacker heating up

Football

Competition at linebacker heating up

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Clemson has plenty of talent at linebacker, and there is no shortage of competition at the position this spring.

With fifth-year senior Baylon Spector sidelined right now following offseason surgery, and sixth-year senior James Skalski being limited by the coaching staff so that other linebackers can get more reps, those other backers are getting an opportunity to show what they can do and make an impression in spring practice.

“It’s very competitive right now,” head coach Dabo Swinney said following Friday’s practice.

Swinney likes what he has seen so far from junior Kane Patterson and redshirt sophomores LaVonta Bentley and Keith Maguire, while redshirt junior Jake Venables returned to practice as a limited participant Friday after missing the ACC Championship Game and Sugar Bowl last season after suffering a broken arm in the regular season finale at Virginia Tech.

“Vonta’s showing a lot of strides,” Swinney said. “We just got Jake back today. He was in green today. We just got him back. … LaVonta, Kane, Maguire, Jake – that whole group is really showing some promise.”

Meanwhile, rising sophomore Trenton Simpson is cross-training at multiple positions, while Skalski is still getting a lot of work at middle linebacker but not taking part in the live practice periods.

Trenton is a guy that we’ve been working inside as well,” Swinney said. “He’s been working the WILL and working the SAM also. So, it’s been good. Of course, Skalski’s taking a ton of reps. He’s getting all the thud stuff, but when we do go live, that’s the only thing he’s not getting right now. But all the team stuff, he’s in there, and it’s good to see him directing everything and staying sharp.”

Along with Simpson, Swinney is seeing growth from rising sophomores Kevin Swint and Sergio Allen.

“Swint is as good of a player as we’ve got, and we’re kind of cross-training him a little bit,” Swinney said. “He’s a natural football player. … That freshman group last year – Simpson and Swint and Sergio – three really good prospects to go along with those guys that have been here for a couple years. They’ve gotten some experience, they’ve had some success and failure, and you’re starting to see a little transformation.”

True freshman linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr., who enrolled at Clemson in January, is flashing his potential as well.

“He’s going to be a great player,” Swinney said. “He’s going to be a great player. He’s a natural prospect. He’s as advertised. He’s a naturally physical guy. I’ve been around some guys that linebacker wasn’t natural for them. But he’s a very natural guy and sees the game well, and he’s got one motor. I love that. Plays at full speed. … We love his potential and what we’ve seen from him at that position.”

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