Summer breakdown: Joseph ready to lead linebackers


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Joseph finished second on the team with 124 tackles last season.
Joseph finished second on the team with 124 tackles last season.

Starters on summer depth chart: Dorian O’Daniel (Sr., SLB); Tre Lamar (Soph., MLB) or Chad Smith (Soph., MLB); Kendall Joseph (Jr., WLB).

Other key returners: Jalen Williams (Jr.); Judah Davis (Jr.); J.D. Davis (Jr.); James Skalski (Soph.).

New faces: Shaq Smith (R-Fr.); Regan Upshaw (R-Fr.); Logan Rudolph (Fr.); Baylon Spector (Fr.); Justin Foster (Fr.).

The breakdown: The Tigers have cycled through a lot of talent at linebacker the past few seasons as Stephone Anthony, Tony Steward and B.J. Goodson quickly come to mind.

That continues with Ben Boulware’s departure and likely roster spot with the Carolina Panthers. Boulware was the heart and soul of the Clemson linebacker group – and probably the entire defense – the past couple of seasons. His absence certainly will be felt, and it leaves a leadership vacuum for this position group (and again, the entire defense).

But just as Goodson and Boulware filled the holes left behind by Anthony and Steward, look for Joseph to step right into that role. He had tremendous sophomore season, finishing second on the team with 124 tackles and tying for the team lead with 13.5 tackles for loss. And still, he was overlooked some and overshadowed by Boulware’s dominant personality.

But after Joseph’s first season as a starter (he started all 15 games), he will have a talented group to lead to keep this position strong for yet another season.

O’Daniel has paid his dues in his time with the program and is the perfect example of a player being patient and finally getting his chance to step into a bigger role. He started 10 games last year and had 60 tackles, and he should be able to continue to grow and showcase his talents in his final season with the program.

Lamar and Chad Smith were solid when they got their chances, especially on special teams, last season as freshmen (Smith as a redshirt), and Shaq Smith is a big-time talent who needed the year of seasoning he got last year sitting and watching as a redshirt. All three are about to get their chance to show what they can do.

Don’t count out the true freshmen (Rudolph, Spector and Foster). Sure, it would be best if they redshirted, but they could add plenty of talented depth, as well.

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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