Fast, physical, versatile players changing the face of Clemson's nickel/sam mix

Korrin Wiggins, TJ Burrell, Dorian O'Daniel will man the position this spring, with help from BJ Goodson

Clemson linebacker Dorian O'Daniel (6) reaches for the ball during a drill on the Tigers' first day of NCAA college football spring practice on Wednesday, Mar. 5, 2014 in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson linebacker Dorian O'Daniel (6) reaches for the ball during a drill on the Tigers' first day of NCAA college football spring practice on Wednesday, Mar. 5, 2014 in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

Through its past several incarnations, Clemson's 'sam' linebacker/nickel back position has been an either/or affair.

Situations have dictated who's in the game for the Tigers - a run-stopping linebacker against schemes like Georgia Tech's or Boston College's, and in short-yardage situations against other teams, or a fifth defensive back against pass-oriented opponents.

That won't change entirely as the Tigers begin preparing for the 2014 season; but the personnel in place at the position reflects a somewhat different approach, both on the field and in the recruiting arena.

What if the Tigers had one player, or a group of players, who could do it all?

Dabo Swinney said this week that sophomores Korrin Wiggins (5-11, 190) and T.J. Burrell (5-11, 215), and redshirt freshman Dorian O'Daniel (6-2 210) will be the primary players manning the position this spring.

The run-stopping plug-in will be rising junior B.J. Goodson (6-1, 235), who has spent most of his career as a backup middle linebacker and special teams player.

"We're going to miss Quandon (Christian)," said Swinney. "Nobody ever talked much about him, but he was very steady.

"We'll start out with Korrin Wiggins being our nickel/sam, and he'll cross-train at nickel and at safety. We don't see much two-back sets, so we've sort of recruited that way if you look at the body-types we have at that position.

"T.J. Burrell is a guy who's got to grow up and get committed. He's one of those young men who is very talented - he can run, he's strong and he's physical - but his work ethic and commitment is going to have to improve if he's going to reach his potential.

"And then Dorian O'Daniel is as-advertised. He's a very talented young prospect. He can fly and he's physical. He loves it, and he had a really good fall in preparing for his opportunity this spring. I'm really looking forward to seeing him out there.

"We do get in bigger sets from time to time, B.J. Goodson has played some sam for us, if we need a bigger body to get on the line against a tight end."

Swinney said that when rising junior Travis Blanks gets back on the field in August after finishing his rehab from ACL surgery, he'll join the nickel/sam mix, as well. Blanks earned Freshman All-America honors playing the position in 2012, but then moved to safety last season.

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Comments » 1

lhaselden writes:

I would like to see Beasley at SAM against GaT......... put another DE in and run 4 -3 with beasley at SAM .... if we go to 3 - 4 then Bealey should be in at LB as well.....

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