Spring Report Card: Linebackers
In 2006, Clemson returns one of the most talented linebacker corps in the ACC. Anthony Waters is the clear leader of not just the linebackers, but the entire defense. Waters burst on the scene in 2005, when he replaced the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Leroy Hill.
Waters tested the NFL waters before deciding to return to Clemson.
More than anything this spring, the leadership skills of Waters stood out. In an interview prior to the Champs Sports Bowl, Waters said, “The coaches are always asking for people to step and be a leader, so I just do it,” when he asked about he energetic leadership. A very simple response from maybe the most driven leader Tommy Bowden has had at Clemson.
This spring and not to mention winter workouts, Waters held everyone accountable, especially himself. If you ask any coach, they will tell you Waters holds every player accountable. He leads by example, as his work ethic never faltered. Some could expect Waters to take winter workouts and spring practice lightly to protect himself from injury, but that simply was not the case.
Redshirt freshman Kavell Connor played behind Waters this spring. Connor was the surprise of the 2005 signing class. The coaching staff loves his upside, and he took the #2 spot from Cortney Vincent. Vincent could make a run in the fall, as he will get re-accustomed to playing linebacker.
Nick Watkins had a solid spring. Watkins is the best in coverage of all the linebackers. In Koenning’s scheme, his position is the most thankless. He may not have the numbers in a box score, but his production does not go unnoticed by the coaching staff. Maurice Nelson had his best spring since arriving at Clemson. Nelson was the headliner of the 2003 class, who has yet to live up to expectations, but he could be on the verge of good things in 2006.
The most heated battle of the spring was at SAM linebacker. Tramaine Billie and Antonio Clay had an intense battle that will carry over into the season. Billie is a senior, who will have his hands full to keep his job. Clay, the true sophomore, may just be talented to keep off the field in 2006. By our estimation, he was the most impressive defensive player in the Orange and White game. Clay has a chance to be special.
Overall, this is the deepest and most talented group of linebackers Bowden has had at Clemson. In the spring, they did not disappoint, and you can count on the fact that Mr. Waters will remind them it is their time to dominate all summer.