Quick Hits with David Blackwell (Part I)

We caught up with Clemson recruiting coordinator and linebackers coach David Blackwell to get his thoughts on a number of topics about the upcoming season.

The JACK linebacker position was a focal point for you this spring. Who emerged at that position for you?
Blackwell: Coming out spring practice, Anthony Waters really separated himself from Nick Watkins, but it's not a situation where I'm ready to say 'absolutely he's the guy.' He hasn't taken the job yet. It's close enough to say that I'm not ready to name a definite starter. I thought both of those guys did some good things for us this spring and they'll both be trying to get that starting spot this fall.

It seems like that a lot of folks are underestimating the loss of a player like John Leake on this defense this year. Would you say that's an accurate statement?
Blackwell: We are going to miss John a little more than people initially expected we would I mean you are talking about a guy that's played a lot of football around here and done a lot of positive things for us during his career. Both of those young men (Waters and Watkins) are talented enough to definitely do the job, they are just inexperienced right now. Our mindset is that we are just going to put them on the field and see who can do the job for us.

LeRoy Hill- here's a guy that was one of the top linebackers in the country last year with 27 tackles for loss. Is it realistic to expect that sort of production again this season?
Blackwell: You sure like to see him pick up where he left off at last fall. He's a very instinctive player. He plays down hill and he's extremely aggressive which gives him the opportunity to make a lot of plays. He had two pretty good football players in from of him last year in DeJuan Polk and Donnell Washington, and obviously that helps him out when they were playing well. He also had John Leake last year, which helped him out a lot. Now he's got at least one young guy playing beside him, and at least one young guy up front and Eric Coleman has to raise his level of play, so I think there are some question marks there that we will have to figure out.

Switching from personnel to the upcoming season, what has the focus been like this offseason in regards to preparing for Wake Forest?
Blackwell: Obviously it's been a thorn in the side for us. First thing we have to do is play our defense and play our game. I sat down yesterday and went back over that game film last year again, and they do a great job but we hurt ourselves an awful lot in that football game. We have to play our defense and play well. Play the way we are capable of playing. We have to stop the run. That's what we have to do first and foremost. Most great defenses have to stop the run. If we can force teams into a situation where they have to throw the football, then that's going to work to our advantage.

Can you talk a little bit about some of the players that most fans don't know about heading into this season? Guys like Maurice Nelson and Tramaine Billie. Could they be ready to play for you a good bit this year?
Blackwell: If you look outside at our rover/whip positions, you've got Tramaine Billie, and he really had a strong spring behind Eric Sampson. We are really excited about his development. Obviously Maurice Nelson had a big hit in the spring game and that's kind of what he was known for coming in. He's 215 pounds right now and I've been ready to try to get him in there with me but Coach Smith isn't really ready to let go of him. Courtney Vincent and Alex Pearson are two guys coming in the fall that we are also excited about. Roosevelt Nelson is a guy that we want to see more of, especially he can stay healthy. David Dunham is a guy we have that's getting up there in terms of class, now he's got to get out there and try and become a difference maker for us.

Stay tuned to CUTigers.com tomorrow for more from Clemson assistant coach and recruiting coordinator David Blackwell.

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