Midterm Report: Linebackers
It is never easy replacing the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, but that task had been put on the shoulders of one Anthony Waters. It did not make it any easier, being the first year at mike linebacker for Waters. Waters started slow in the role, but now he has came on strong.
In his first game, Waters only had five tackles since then he has been on a tear. Waters posted 14 tackles against Maryland including 4.5 TFLs, 11 tackles against Miami, 14 tackles against Boston College, and 10 tackles against Wake Forest. Waters is on paced to go over 100 tackle mark on the year. He has been a disruptive force against the run, but he needs to work on his pass coverage. Like the entire defense, he is adjusting to the zone coverages, but he has been a bright spot on the defense.
It is Waters supporting cast, who needs to raise their level of play. Tramaine Billie and Nick Watkins have fewer tackles for loss combined than Waters has by himself. Billie has made for tackles behind the line of scrimmage, while Watkins has only made one. Waters sits at 6.5 TFLs. Watkins played his best game against Maryland, where he had 13 tackles. The will linebacker position in Koenning’s scheme is counted on to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. To this point, neither Watkins nor his backup David Dunham has done that. Surprisingly, Dunham does not have a single TFL. For the Tigers to be successful in the second half, these numbers need to improve.
Billie has been solid, but not spectacular to this point. He had 10 tackles against Maryland, and 13 tackles against Boston College. He had two tackles for loss against Maryland as well, but he needs to make more plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Clemson does not have a lot of depth at linebacker. True freshmen Antonio Clay and Josh Miller are the future, but they have only played sparingly to this point. Unless the snap total changes, Miller may have been better off redshirting. Clay has seen double digit snaps in every game but Wake Forest.
This group is more talented than they have shown. Coaches David Blackwell and Ron West will continue to push this group for better results. Waters has carried the group the first half of the season, but he will need help down the stretch.