James Skalski: An Extension Of Brent Venables


If it feels like James Skalski has been a part of the Clemson football program for a long time, that is because he has. The linebacker from Georgia is now a fifth-year senior, and that veteran presence should come in handy in the coming season. 

With Isaiah Simmons and Chad Smith both gone, Skalski is the lone returning starter at linebacker. While there is no shortage of talent on the roster, there isn't a ton of experience, and defensive coordinator Brent Venables will be looking to Sklaski to help with the molding some of those younger players. 

"You know V's (Venables) got quite the reputation when it comes to the way we play defense," Skalski said. "The complexities, the blitz packages, you just got to keep the offense guessing, and it does take time to learn." 

Learning to play in Venables' defense is no easy task, and learning to play linebacker in his system takes a lot of dedication. Earning the trust of Venables takes time in and of itself. 

One of the younger players trying to do that is true freshman Trenton Simpson. Through two days of fall camp, Skalski says the former five-star recruit has been as good as advertised.

"He got a pick (Friday)," Skalski said. "Made a great play today. Freaky, talented guy. People don't know but that guy was a running back in high school. He's only been playing linebacker for a year. He's got all the talent in the world."

When it comes to helping the younger players like Simpson learn the nuances of the complex system, Venables will be counting on the older players like Skalski to step in and lend a helping hand. The veteran linebacker is anxious to do whatever needs to be done.

"I think when you got a bunch of older guys like myself, (Baylon) Spector, and Jake (Venables)," Skalski said, "and all these guys that can be an extension of him (Brent Venables), it's not that big of a challenge when you can help them as much as Coach V can.

"I think the size of the playbook is the biggest difficulty for them. But when you have a good group with a few years under their belt, it definitely makes it a lot easier."