The Clemson Tigers have entered the "Transformation Phase" of their year. It's a time when they'll prepare their bodies and minds for the grueling season, starting with summer workouts and the ensuing fall camp.
Today we look at three linebackers who need to have a transformational summer.
1. Trenton Simpson: The rising sophomore is expected to be a key piece in Brent Venables defense next season after seeing action in all 12 games during his freshman campaign. By season's end, Simpson was playing major snaps, even starting three games, and this season he is expected to transition into the full-time starter at SAM.
Although, Simpson's versatility allows Venables to use him in a multitude of ways, including playing him inside. In order to take the next step in his development Simpson will need to spend the summer learning every detail of Venables' complex scheme as the Tigers will rely heavily on his ability to line up at multiple positions on the field. Adding a few pounds of bulk would also help with durability.
2. Kane Patterson: The linebacker from Tennessee was a big get for the Tigers in the 2019 recruiting class. However, Clemson is loaded at linebacker, so snaps have been hard to come by for Patterson over his first two seasons.
With James Skalski returning for a sixth season, snaps could still be hard to come by, but playing in place of the ejected Skalski, the highly-touted linebacker showed flashes of his potential in the Sugar Bowl loss to Ohio State. Cracking the two-deep isn't very likely but coming off a productive spring, an increase in snaps could be in store for Patterson assuming he keeps putting in the work over the summer.
3. LaVonta Bentley: Like Patterson, Bentley was a big get for the Tigers in 2019 and is entering his third season in the program. Bentley's talent has never been in question, but he's also fallen victim to a crowded linebacker room, having played even less than Patterson over his first two years.
Dabo Swinney said this was Bentley's best spring to date and the linebacker from Alabama will need to keep that momentum going throughout the summer if he is to see an increase in playing time. Being in peak physical form, as well as mentally sharp going into fall practice, could go a long ways towards deciding how many opportunities Bentley will get in 2021.
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