Camp 'very competitive' for Clemson's new-look linebacking corps

Camp 'very competitive' for Clemson's new-look linebacking corps


Camp 'very competitive' for Clemson's new-look linebacking corps


The competition at the second level of the defense, particularly at one position, rages on at Clemson.

The Tigers have the unenviable task of replacing James Skalski and Baylon Spector, a couple of multi-year starters at linebacker and veterans who were part of the Tigers’ program for a combined 11 seasons before exhausting their eligibility last season. Spector, a seventh-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills, left a void at Will ‘backer that’s already been filled by Trenton Simpson, who made the move from the Sam/nickel position before the spring.

But Clemson is still looking for a replacement in the middle for Skalski, who left with 310 tackles while tying a school record for games played (69) during his six seasons with the Tigers. Nothing was settled in the spring, and one of the candidates vying to take over the top spot there on the depth chart, fourth-year junior Keith Maguire, said there hasn’t been much separation so far in preseason camp.

“Just competing, man,” Maguire said following Tuesday’s practice. “You compete every day obviously, but with spots to fill, it’s very competitive right now. The energy is good. It’s good so far.”

Maguire has played both the Mike and Will positions during his time at Clemson but said he has repped exclusively in the middle so far during camp. He said sophomore Jeremiah Trotter is also repping there while fellow junior Lavonta Bentley has been taking reps with Simpson at Will.

Asked if he’s been getting the majority of the first-team reps at Mike, Maguire said the rotation hasn’t changed much from the spring to this point.

“We’re splitting them up,” Maguire said. “Every other rack, we’ll go first and second. It’s really on Coach Wes (Goodwin) to make the script before practice, and we’ll kind of go from there. … That’s what we did in the spring, too. Still kind of figuring out what it’s going to be.”

It’s not just the spots at the top of the depth chart that need solidifying. With the departure of Skalski and Spector and reserves Kane Patterson (transfer to Vanderbilt) and Jake Venables no longer around, the competition to be part of the rotation this fall has been just as heated, Maguire said.

“The first four days have been super competitive across all the linebacker positions,” he said. “With Skalski and Spector gone, we’ve got to step up and have some more leadership for the linebackers and the defense as a whole. I think a lot of us are trying to do that, and we’ve been doing a good job of it.”

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