Early in the season, linebacking core was considered one of the strengths of Wes Goodwin’s defense. Led by the trio of Trenton Simpson, Barrett Carter and Jeremiah Trotter, Jr., many predicted this group would be among the best in the ACC. Ahead of the season, some predicted this group would form the best Front 7s in Clemson history, in addition to the defensive front. To say that expectations were high would be an understatement.
Jeremiah Trotter Jr.: 89 tackles (49 solo, 40 assist, led team), 6.5 sacks, 5 passes defended, 2 INTs, 1 TD, 1 FF
Honors: Associated Press second-team All-America honors, Pro Football Focus third-team All-America and second-team All-ACC, College Football Network second-team All-ACC and Phil Steele
Beret Carter: 73 tackles (41 solo, 32 assists), 5.5 sacks, 8 passes defended, 2 INT, 2 FF
Honors: Phil Steele fourth-team All-America honoree, Phil Steele first-team All-ACC and Pro Football Focus
Trenton Simpson: 73 tackles (41 solo, 32 assist), 2.5 sacks, 3 passes defended, 1 INT, 1 FR
Honours: Butkus Award Semifinalist, Lott IMPACT Trophy Semifinalist, Third Team All-ACC Selection, Phil Steele Third Team All-ACC Honors
Keith Maguire: 39 tackles (18 solo, 21 assists)
Wade Woodaz: 20 tackles (9 solo, 11 assist), 1.5 sacks, 3 passes defended, 1 FF
LaVonta Bentley: 20 tackles (12 solo, 8 assists), 1 sack
TJ Dudley: 1 tackle (0 solo, 1 assist)
Sergio Allen: 1 tackle (1 solo, 0 assist)
Matthew Maloney: 1 tackle (1 solo, 0 assist)
The top three, Simpson, Carter and Trotter, were expected to produce, and they produced. All three received national accolades from multiple sources, led by Jeremiah Trotter, who advanced Clemson in tackles with an impressive 89 in the season. Throughout the season, I was greatly impressed by Trotter: he was less recognized than Simpson and Carter, but he proved he was arguably the best defensive player on the field. His pick-six against South Carolina should have been a much more memorable game if the Tigers had stayed through that game. While I commend Trotter, Trenton Simpson and Barrett Carter take no credit.
Showing his athleticism and talent for coverage, Carter recorded a linebacking room high of 8 passes defended and 2 interceptions. Not to mention 5.5 sacks, Carter was a threat for many offenses throughout the season. Finally, the junior in Trenton Simpsons put in another impressive season at Clemson last year and garnered national attention in the form of a Butkus Award semifinalist. I think Simpson gets picked in the first round and that just comes from someone who’s seen both players play and reminds me a lot of Isaiah Simmons.
Of the linebackers listed with tackles by ESPN, four will not be on the team next year. Those four are Trenton Simpson (NFL Draft), Keith Maguire (retired), LaVonta Bentley (Colorado) and Sergio Allen (California). Obviously, Trenton Simpson’s loss to the Clemson defense will be huge, and finding out who will follow in his footsteps will be one of many pressing questions for the coaching staff to figure out at the Spring Ball. One incumbent I believe will have the upper hand is Wade Woodaz.
Woodaz, a late recruit, joined late in the year and played significant snaps in the ACC championship game and the Orange Bowl, as well as against Syracuse, Louisville and South Carolina. If he can build on his performance then Simpson’s descent could be minimized which would be massive for defense.
Another incumbent who could be pushing for more playing time is TJ Dudley. A top recruit from Alabama who has only played in 2 games (Lousiana Tech and UNC), he will be a redshirt freshman coming into the season. If he can get a few snaps with the first team at Spring Ball, he has the ability to make an impact, whether as a starter or as a rotational figure.
Jamal Anderson (Mill Creek High School, Hoschton, Georgia) – 4 Star, Natl. 216, position 19, street 18
Dee Crayton (Denmark High School, Alpharetta, Georgia) – 4 Star, Natl. 416, pos. 34, street 44