Depth Chart, In-Depth: Linebackers
Up First: Junior Stephone Anthony (6-3, 235, Polkton, N.C.) will open preseason camp as the Tigers' starting middle linebacker. Senior Spencer Shuey (6-3, 230, Charlotte, N.C.) has moved into the starting 'Will' slot vacated by Tig Willard, while senior Quandon Christian (6-2, 225, Lake View, S.C) returns for his fourth season as a starter at the 'Sam' position.
Anthony, the nation's No. 1 outside linebacker prospect out of Anson High in 2011, has found a home in the middle for the Tigers, after splitting time last season with Shuey. In two seasons, Anthony has played in 26 games, started 10, and has 109 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, one interception, three caused and four PBUs.
Shuey, who beat out Anthony for the starting middle spot midway through last season, is a veteran of 37 games. A special teams standout throughout his career, Shuey started seven games last season and had 93 tackles, including six tackles for loss and one sack. He has 30 special teams tackles in his career.
Christian has been a mainstay since his freshman year, while splitting time with the Tigers' designated 'nickel back.' He's played in 40 games, started 21, and has 100 career tackles in 1,236 snaps. He has two interceptions, four PBUs, and 10 quarterback pressures.
Next In Line: Redshirt sophomore B.J. Goodson (6-1, 240, Lamar, S.C.) will back Anthony in the middle, with junior Tony Steward (6-1, 235, Hastings, Fla.) backing Shuey at the 'Will' position. Sophomore Kellen Jones (6-1, 215, Houston, Texas) is listed third on the depth chart behind both Goodson and Steward.
Jones is coming off an impressive spring, after sitting out last season as a transfer from Oklahoma, where he played for defensive coordinator Brent Venables as a first-year freshman. Steward, who claimed the high school Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker in 2010, spent last season working his way back into form after suffering an ACL injury midway through the 2011 season. He played in all 13 games and had 26 tackles in just 73 snaps. Goodson played primarily on special teams as a redshirt freshman.
Backing Christian at the 'Sam' position will be redshirt freshman T.J. Burrell (5-11, 215, Goose Creek, S.C.).
In The Pipeline: Joining the linebacking crew this summer are Ben Boulware (6-1, 230, Anderson, S.C.), Dorian O'Daniel (6-1, 205, Olney, Md.), and D.J. Greenlee (6-2, 210, Central, S.C.).
Ranked as the No. 1 player in South Carolina and the No. 3 middle linebacker in the nation by ESPN, Boulware turned in a string of impressive performances in post-season all-star games, including MVP honors in the Shrine Bowl. O'Daniel starred as a running back and linebacker at Good Counsel High, and was ranked as the No. 6 outside linebacker and No. 40 player overall by Rivals. Greenlee was a three-year starter at linebacker for Daniel High. He's the son of Tiger assistant director of strength and conditioning Larry Greenlee.
Working Walk-on: Contributing as members of the scout team are Marcus Bullard (6-3, 205, Columbia, S.C.), Jim Brown (6-3, 235, Walterboro, S.C.), and Chris Richardson (5-11, 225, Sumter, S.C.).
More Help On The Way: The Tigers' 2014 recruiting class is shaping up again as one of the nation's best. Clemson has commitments from Korie Rogers (6-2, 220, Buford, Ga.), who is ranked as the nation's No. 2 outside linebacker by Rivals; Chris Register (6-4, 210, Greensboro, N.C.), who is ranked as the nation's No. 9 outside linebacker by Scout; and Kendall Joseph (6-1, 230, Belton, S.C.), who is rated as a four-star inside linebacker by both ESPN and 247Sports. Clemson is still pursuing the nation's top-rated middle linebacker, Raekwon McMillan of Hinesville, Ga., as an over-sign at the position.
Overall Outlook: Getting back to the old days. It's been a while since Clemson fielded a truly dominant group of linebackers, both in terms of top-end performance and depth. That's what Brent Venables has been building toward since he arrived at Clemson, recruiting a combination of stout inside run-stoppers like Boulware and Joseph, and athletic, mobile players like O'Daniel, Greenlee, Rogers and Register. The Tigers are still a work-in-progress, but will be able to man all three starting spots with experienced players this fall (Christian, Shuey and Anthony have combined for 103 games and 35 starts in their careers). If Steward, Goodson and Jones - or one of the first-year freshmen - work their way into the regular rotation at their positions, Clemson will have the depth needed to complement its impressive top-tier.