Koenning, West Discusses Options at LB

CLEMSON – Senior linebacker Tramaine Billie, Clemson's third leading tackler last season, broke his ankle near the end of practice Wednesday night, Tigers coach Tommy Bowden revealed Thursday afternoon.

Billie, a senior, will undergo surgery Friday morning to repair the damage, the extent of which is unknown. Depending on the damage, the earliest return for Billie would be in the second week of the season against Boston College, with the latest being three or four weeks after that.

"I feel bad for the kid, but for the rest of it is really irrelevant … we'll make it work," defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said. "I feel bad for the young man. He's worked hard and had been having his best camp and had been really putting out, really doing a good job and really getting into it."

Billie started all 12 games last season at Sam linebacker and made 93 tackles, 50 of which were solo. He also had one sack, two pass breakups and fumble recovery.

Offensive guard Nathan Bennett pulled and blocked Billie, who then got his foot caught underneath him and broke his ankle.

The loss of Billie is a big one, but it could have been much worse, which Bowden pointed out to the team Thursday afternoon.

"I saw in the paper this morning that Alabama lost a running back for three or four weeks, Tennessee lost a guy for the rest of the year, Minnesota lost another running back and Florida lost two starting guards," Bowden said. "I took that article out there to the team and told them that it happens everywhere in America. Thank goodness it happened this early."

Sophomore Antonio Clay, who started one game at middle linebacker last season and who finished 14th on the team with 27 tackles, takes over the starting role in place of Billie, who had put some serious distance between he and Clay for the starting job.

"Oh, big time (separation)," defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said. "It hasn't really even been that close."

Koenning said Clay definitely has to improve his play, which has been disappointing throughout camp.

"(Antonio hasn't performed) good enough," Koenning said. "We've got to get him where he needs to be."

Clay doesn't feel like it's going to be a problem.

"I'm the man, that's me," he said. "I'm ready for whatever. I have to take a serious approach. Losing Billie was hard for the team, but I just have to step in and make the best."

Contrary to his coaches, Clay said there aren't many missed assignments and that his biggest problem has been concentrating on the play at hand.

"It's just a matter of staying focused," he said. "Other than that, I execute my assignments. They're not (missed assignments), I'm just not focusing. Sometimes I'm just not executing the plays."

Right now, Jeremy Campbell is behind Clay, with the third team player being wide open. It could be Adrian Kindred, but that's no guarantee.

"Adrian Kindred's not acting like he wants to be here, so I don't know if he's going to step up and play," Koenning said. "It's up that kid with his head and his heart."

There's no guarantee that Campbell will remain with the second team. Koenning and Sam linebackers coach Ron West each said there's a possibility a player from another position could be moved.

"We've got some other possibilities that we're discussing," West said. "What we're doing right now is that we've got Antonio there and then we'll decide."

CUTigers.com Top Stories