Looking ahead, position-by-position: linebackers

With plenty of players to work with, Brent Venables will be looking for the right combination in 2013

Justin Parker closes in on a Tar Heel runner after losing his helmet during the Tigers' game against North Carolina.

Photo by Mark Crammer

Justin Parker closes in on a Tar Heel runner after losing his helmet during the Tigers' game against North Carolina.

Looking ahead, position-by-position: linebackers

No. 1 question: With a year's more experience and more pieces to work with, can Brent Venables' group master their assignments and play consistently at a championship level?

The depth chart: The Tigers lose a mainstay in Tig Willard and a solid plug-in man in Corico Wright, but the rest of the Tigers' linebackers return, plus Justin Parker, Kellen Jones and T.J. Burrell jump into the mix.

Tony Steward should get first shot at the 'Will' position, where he played sparingly behind Willard and Wright last season. The middle will be the Tigers' strength with Spencer Shuey - Clemson's top tackler over the second half of the season - and Stephone Anthony again battling for the No. 1 spot. At the 'Sam' position, look for Quandon Christian to again split snaps with whoever emerges as the Tigers' top nickel back.

That leaves B.J. Goodson, Lateek Townsend, Parker, Jones and Burrell to carve out niches for themselves this spring. Parker, who played as a true freshman and sophomore, is coming off a redshirt season after undergoing surgery before last season. Jones sat out last season after transferring from Oklahoma, and Burrell redshirted.

Look for Venables to cross-train and experiment during the spring in an effort to get the Tigers' best players on the field.

Recruiting prospects: The Tigers have three more linebackers committed for this year's recruiting class - Ben Boulware, Dorian O'Daniel and D.J. Greenlee. Both Boulware and O'Daniel are ESPN Top 150 picks, with Boulware rated as the state of South Carolina's top player overall. O'Daniel is ranked as the nation's No. 5 outside linebacker and is a top-50 overall pick by Rivals.

Clemson has offers out to a large group of linebackers for the class of 2014 - a group led by projected five-star MLB Raekwon McMillan of Hinesville, Ga., Chris Register of Greensboro, N.C., Christian Miller of Columbia, S.C., and Kevin Crosby of Bamberg, S.C. Other players of interest include Gyasi Akem of Broken Arrow, Okla., Richard Yeargin of Hollywood, Fla., Korie Rogers of Buford, Ga., Tre Williams of Mobile, Ala., D'Ronzjaih Matthews of Fort Myers, Fla., Cameron Hampton of Dallas, Tex., Bryson Allen-Williams of Ellenwood, Ga., Rashaan Evans of Auburn, Ala., and Shaun Dion Hamilton of Montgomery, Ala.

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Comments » 3

lhaselden writes:

I wonder if any of the LBs like Anthony or Steward can fill the nickel slot? I think that is what makes Alabama and LSU and South Carolina so tough on defense, they seem to have a hybrid player that can play LB or safety. A player like McDaniel was for us a few years ago.

Xander5000 writes:

in response to lhaselden:

I wonder if any of the LBs like Anthony or Steward can fill the nickel slot? I think that is what makes Alabama and LSU and South Carolina so tough on defense, they seem to have a hybrid player that can play LB or safety. A player like McDaniel was for us a few years ago.

That is what I believe Lateek Townsend, Quandon Christian and Stephone Anthony are capable of doing. Would love to see that. I'm telling you, with this crop coming in we have a chance to be another Linebacker U.

cuGIZ82 writes:

The talent is coming to CU...coaches just have to fit the scheme to the personnel

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