Ben Boulware seemingly has been ready to take over this spot since he arrived on the Clemson campus. He has been known for his hard-hitting and intense attitude, but in 2014 he took a big step to being a full-fledged playmaker and leader of the defense. He had 83 tackles, including 6.5 for loss and a sack, recording two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. His interception and return for a touchdown was one of the highlight plays of the Tigers’ bowl win over Oklahoma.
If not for an ultra-talented group in front of him in 2014, Boulware would have started then. Now is his chance to take over for the likes of Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward. As a junior, Boulware could be the best player on the defense this fall, and he needs to begin that ascension with a strong spring.
Ready to step up
B.J. Goodson enters his senior season coming off a solid junior campaign. He got plenty of valuable playing time last year, and that will help him this season. He has 45 career tackles, including 3.5 for loss, one sack and three fumble recoveries. He might not be as dynamic as some of the linebackers Clemson has had the past couple of seasons or will have this season, but he does his job and does it well.
The Tigers’ defense needs him to be a steadying influence with so many new faces at linebacker, and he needs to step into a leadership role this spring.
Looking for a bigger role
Dorian O’Daniel is entering his sophomore season, and he was one of the Tigers’ top special teams players last season (and one of the hardest hitters on those groups). He did make one start and played in 12 games with 31 tackles, but this spring offers him a chance to take the next step and become a larger part of the defense. He certainly has the talent to do just that.
T.J. Burrell will be a junior, and he also has played mostly on special teams, but like Daniel, he has a chance to take on a larger role this spring. There are a lot of younger guys pushing for those spots, so Burrell is going to really have to take his game to another level.
The Tigers have a good group coming joining the rotation in Kendall Joseph, Korie Rogers and Chris Register after all three redshirted in the fall. There is playing time there to be had for those three with Anthony and Steward moving on to likely NFL careers. And these three young linebackers have the talent to jump right into the mix and get plenty of time on the field.
The new crop
Jalen Williams and J.D. and Judah Davis were all grayshirts who originally signed with the program in 2014. They enrolled early, meaning they will get some looks this spring.
Key stat: Goodson, not Boulware, has the most starts of any of the returning linebackers with six.
Spring breakdown: LBs
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