Post spring insider: Middle linebacker

CLEMSON — When Kevin Steele looks at his defense he sees a unit that has a chance to be pretty special.

Clemson returns 25 letterman and eight starters from a unit that ranked in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense, total defense and pass defense and though the Tigers have to replace safeties Michael Hamlin and Chris Clemons from a secondary that ranked second in the nation in yards per attempt, Steele's concern isn't in his defensive backfield.

"I really think the place that still needs to be sorted out is linebacker," the new Clemson defensive coordinator said. "You go from a two-linebacker scheme, because DeAndre (McDaniel) was not a linebacker, to a three.

"He was a nickel back because they played nickel a lot of the time. That's okay because they were very good at it. But what it does now, because you have a three linebacker scheme, you sort those things out and spread them out from two to three and then you plug those in with the multiplicity in what we are doing. We have some things that we still have to answer."

Brandon Maye (6-foot-2, 240 pounds, redshirt sophomore, Mobile, Ala.)
About: Was a first-team freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association and was a second-team freshman All-American by Collegefootballnews.com and the Sporting News last year. He was fourth on the team in tackles with 87, the most by a freshman since Anthony Simmons in 1995.

The positives: When he is locked and loaded, he is very efficient. He has very good instincts and is nasty in a good way. That's not a bad thing, he just has to harness it and get everyone on the same page on what control emotion is about. Control emotion is about playing at a high-rate of speed with a violent attitude. Not violent like society thinks of violent, but football violent where you have a nasty approach to it, but it is clean and within the rules.

The negatives: He has never been in a system where he has space to sort things out. Made a lot of improvement there in the spring. Also, the coaches have to get him to understand control. Use it good, because playing middle linebacker is a thinking game. There is too much going on out there and when a player loses control of his emotions he can't think properly.

Jeremy Campbell (6-foot-1, 220 pounds, senior, Port Orange, Fla.)

About: Productive reserve who was second on the team in fewest plays per tackle (4.62). Played in all 13 games last season and has played in 32 overall during his career.

The positives: Steele, who coaches the linebackers, was really impressed with Campbell in the spring. He is the one guy in terms of space, coverage, route recognition and formation recognition that can do it all effectively. He can eliminate things, which allows him to be able to play and recognize things a little faster. That is a gift he has. He has a gift in really sorting that out.

The negatives: His deal is, and he did it for the most part in the spring, was to become a more physical player in the box. He still needs to improve there and get a little stronger. But it's more of a confidence thing with him more than anything else.


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