Shaq Smith pleased with his defense following spring practice

by - Senior Writer -
Smith will be one the team leaders next fall
Smith will be one the team leaders next fall

CLEMSON - Dabo Swinney and Brent Venables both say that the best teams they’ve played for or coached were player-led, with last season’s National Championship team a prime example. Leaders like Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, Kendall Joseph, and Christian Wilkins made an impact both on and off the field.

Who will provide that leadership this season? Look no further than former 5-star prospect Shaq Smith.

The Maryland native is expected to assume a considerably larger role at linebacker this season with the departures of Joseph and Tre Lamar. During the recently completed spring practice, the Clemson coaching staff praised Smith for his leadership, work ethic, and play on the field.

Smith played in all 15 games last season and was credited with 16 tackles, including 2.5 for loss. Smith recorded his first sack of the season in the Tigers’ Cotton Bowl victory against Notre Dame. However, Smith has had to battle for playing time against older players and has played just 203 snaps in 26 career games.

That will likely change this season, and Smith stepped to the forefront after last Saturday’s spring game to address the play of the defense and the outlook for 2019.

“I feel with all of the guys that left last year, a lot of people have question marks about our defense and we came out today and solidified ourselves,” Smith said. “After losing all those guys, people say we are young and things like that, but I think the young guys stepped up. As an overall unit, we played very well.

“We don't want to dwell on the past. Those guys left. They were great leaders. So what we have to do is take all of the wisdom and the knowledge and the leadership that they left us and pick it up and carry on.”

Smith said he feels like the defense will play even better once the players learn to play as a unit.

“I feel like that comes with knowledge,” Smith said. “We all work the same, and what I mean by that is we are all in the film room together, and we are all on the practice field together, and we are all in the weight room together, and we are already building that relationship. We are gelling with each other before we even get on the field. And then once we get on the field, it will be like what we did in the weight room and the film room, and we will come together, and it will all be natural for us.”

Smith hasn’t let the added responsibility change anything about the way he goes about his business.

“The only thing that has been different for me is the leadership aspect and putting more pressure on myself personally to just be a better leader for my guys and for my teammates because I know that is what we need right now,” Smith said. “Nothing different than I have been doing. Just go to work and attack each day and leading by example and get 100 percent better than I was yesterday.”

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