Leader of the Pack


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Boulware is the leader of the linebackers
Boulware is the leader of the linebackers

Clemson’s linebackers have plenty of new faces and players stepping into larger roles this season.

But one linebacker defensive coordinator Brent Venables knows he can lean on is senior Ben Boulware.

“He’s a guy that’s so invested, and to get the details, I’m in constant contact with Ben just as my liaison, ‘Ben how’s it going?’ ” Venables said. “And sometimes, I may not even be listening… I usually am. It’s really not what he tells me; it’s just, ‘OK, he’s in the middle of it. He’s in the thick of it. He’s invested in it. He cares.’”

In 39 career games, Boulware has 221 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, four sacks, four interceptions, three caused fumbles and three recovered fumbles. He has played 1,249 snaps in his career and has started 17 games.

But the numbers aren’t what Venables is focusing on with Boulware. That needed senior leadership trumps the statistics.

“I’m just trying to help that growth and that development with him and his leadership,” Venables said. “It’s really not the substance. It’s really, the quality if he says, ‘Ben, how’s it been this week, or how’s it been the last two weeks?’ ‘How was it today?’ And he gives me a, ‘It was good,’ and I have to pry and get the answers, then good luck to all of us. If you’re counting on that guy from a leadership standpoint and being a guy that can be an extension of you, if he’s an extension of you, then you’re going to hear yourself on the other end of the phone. And that was very pleasing to get that from him.

“I felt like that was pretty consistent. He’s a guy that’s very invested. He understands what our expectations are as a staff. He understands the kind of feedback that I’m looking for, the urgency, the effort, are guys jacking around?”

That leadership is important with Dorian O’Daniel and Kendall Joseph moving into starting roles. The unit also has true freshmen Tre Lamar and Shaq Smith set to be performers, as well.

O’Daniel had 32 tackles, including 5.5 for loss, in 181 snaps last year, while Joseph had 11 tackles in 63 snaps.

Venables had high praise for Joseph.

“Very mature, very mature, first and foremost,” Venables said. “He lets me coach him hard, and he takes great pride in his work and the investment process on the front end. He’s got great instincts. He’s a tough kid, came in with great fundamentals, a great foundation and a feel and understanding for the game. I think he’s ready for his opportunity.

“He was snake-bit last year. Even when he was on the active game-day roster, he was banged up most of the year, particularly early. He had a knee that he just couldn’t get over, got hurt on the very first day of fall camp and never really was himself all year.”

*Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Midday Sports Zone on Middle Georgia’s ESPN, 93.1 FM and 99.5 FM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports.

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