NCAA Football

Clemson Football Season 2022 Review: Linebackers

Expectations

Heading into the season, the 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. Before the season, some predicted that this group, in addition to the defensive front, would include the best front 7 in Clemson history. To say expectations were high would be an understatement.

Production

Jeremiah Trotter Jr.: 89 tackles (49 solo, 40 assist, Led Team), 6.5 sacks, 5 passes defensed, 2 INTs, 1 TD, 1 FF

Honors: Second Team All-America honors by Associated Press, Third Team All-America and Second Team All-ACC by Pro Football Focus, Second Team All-ACC selection by College Football Network and Phil Steele

Barrett Carter: 73 tackles (41 solo, 32 assist), 5.5 sacks, 8 passes defensed, 2 INT, 2 FF

Honors: Fourth-team All-America honors from Phil Steele, First-team All-ACC from Phil Steele and Pro Football Focus

Trenton Simpson: 73 tackles (41 solo, 32 assist), 2.5 sacks, 3 passes defensed, 1 INT, 1 FR

Honors: Butkus Award semifinalist, Lott IMPACT Trophy semifinalist, Third-team All-ACC selection, Third-team All-ACC honors from Phil Steele

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 assist), 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 of Simpson, Carter and Trotter were expected to produce and they did. All three garnered national accolades from multiple sources, led by Jeremiah Trotter, who paced Clemson in tackles with an impressive 89 on the season. Throughout the season, I was very impressed with Trotter: He came in with less recognition than Simpson and Carter, yet he proved that he was arguably the best defender on the field. His pick-six against South Carolina should have been a much more memorable play if the Tigers had hung on for that game. While I praise Trotter, it doesn’t take away any praise from Trenton Simpson and Barrett Carter.

Carter showed his athleticism and ability in coverage, recording a linebacking haul of 8 passes defensed and 2 interceptions. Not to mention 5.5 sacks, Carter was a threat to many offenses throughout the season. Finally, in Trenton Simpson’s final year at Clemson, the junior turned in another impressive season that garnered national attention in the form of a Butkus Award semifinalist finish. I think Simpson gets picked in the first round, and this simply coming from someone who watched both players play, reminds me an awful lot of Isaiah Simmons.

Look forward to

Of the linebackers listed with tackles according to ESPN, four will not be on the team next year. Those four are Trenton Simpson (NFL Draft), Keith Maguire (retiring), LaVonta Bentley (Colorado) and Sergio Allen (California). Obviously, the loss of Trenton Simpson will be huge for the Clemson defense, and figuring out who will step into his shoes will be one of many pressing questions for the coaching staff to figure out in spring ball. One incumbent I think will have the upper hand is Wade Woodaz.

Woodaz, a late recruit, came on toward the end of the year and played meaningful snaps in the ACC Championship game and Orange Bowl, as well as against Syracuse, Louisville and South Carolina. If he can build on his performance, the drop-off from Simpson can be minimized, which would be huge for the defense.

Another incumbent who could push for more playing time is TJ Dudley. A top recruit from Alabama who only played in 2 games (Louisiana Tech and UNC), he will be a redshirt freshman at the start of the season. If he can get some snaps with the first team in spring ball, he has the ability to break through, whether as a starter or rotating piece.

Jamal Andersen (Mill Creek High School, Hoschton, Georgia) – 4-star, Natl. 216, Pos. 19, St. 18

Dee Crayton (Denmark High School, Alpharetta, Georgia) – 4-star, Natl. 416, Pos. 34, St. 44

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