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2017 Clemson Football Participation: Linebackers

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NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Ohio State vs Clemson Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: Games started and games played are not always the best metrics to define experience. Sometimes players get 5 snaps in a game while others get 40. Because of this we review the snap counts of each player at the end of the season to see who has really gained experienced and how much experience Clemson will really be losing.

For several years, linebacker snaps were pretty simple. Clemson would have 2 linebackers with all of the snaps plus backups with maybe 50 snaps on the season. The position just didn’t have the talent level Brent Venables wanted nor did he trust the backups. We also saw deficiencies because of how Venables styled the defense. He was looking to minimize the weaknesses of the group.

That has begun to change and we saw it a bit this year. Rather than just two players with significant playing time we saw several new faces get some experience, below is the chart.

LB Snap Counts

Player Position Year Kent State Auburn Louisville Boston College Virginia Tech Wake Forest Syracuse Georgia Tech NC State Florida State Citadel South Carolina Miami Total
Player Position Year Kent State Auburn Louisville Boston College Virginia Tech Wake Forest Syracuse Georgia Tech NC State Florida State Citadel South Carolina Miami Total
J.D. Davis LB Junior 12 4 18 20 36 29 0 24 32 55 33 8 14 285
Judah Davis LB Junior 5 0 10 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 25 10 3 54
Kendall Joseph LB RS Junior 25 62 55 54 59 54 87 56 70 0 0 44 46 612
Tre Lamar LB Sophomore 22 37 28 50 35 31 2 46 62 18 0 0 0 331
Jarvis Magwood LB RS Junior 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
Dorian O'Daniel LB RS Senior 22 62 50 39 52 48 83 45 80 58 26 43 46 654
Conner Sekas LB Senior 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2
James Skalski LB Sophomore 13 0 7 5 3 0 0 11 2 4 36 36 32 149
Chad Smith LB RS Sophomore 13 13 15 4 11 11 1 0 7 39 0 0 12 126
Shaq Smith LB RS Freshman 8 0 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 31 9 15 73
Jalen Williams LB Junior 24 10 19 26 21 15 0 12 0 1 39 9 15 191

Obviously the big names with plenty of snaps are Dorian O’Daniel and Kendall Joseph. The two leaders of the group were also the guys carrying most of the load. But this year Clemson used a 3rd linebacker in the SAM role rather than using a nickel CB. That’s where Tre Lamar and J.D. Davis came into play. Lamar was definitely the starter here before his injury, but the staff was comfortable enough with Davis that he was getting significant snaps even before Lamar was injured.

What is interesting though is that once Lamar was injured the staff seemed to turn to James Skalski rather than Davis as main guy. Both got significant snaps against Citadel, but against South Carolina and Miami Skalski played starters snaps, nearly 40 a game, while Davis barely got 10 snaps a game. It seems a bit odd just because Skalski was only getting 5 snaps a game before the Citadel game. Just doesn’t pass the sniff test for me, but the whole Tre Lamar situation was odd.

Finally there is Shaq Smith. I think it is fair to say this year was pretty disappointing. A lot of us were hoping he would finally put things together mentally, but it just hasn’t happened. Yes, he is only a redshirt sophomore, but with this being his third year in the program you’d expect someone rated as highly as him to contribute more than 73 snaps. Shaq has two more years, but if he doesn’t step up in 2018 it will be hard to view his career as anything more than a bust at Clemson.