It is game week in Tigertown which means an army of 'new' faces is getting set to start in the first game of their careers. Among those new starters include redshirt sophomore Mike Jones Jr. who will seek to fill a void in the linebacker room.
While Jones' impact on the field has been limited to this point, he's roared like a Tiger off the field and been a leader on his campus in the push for change and social justice.
Jones is not quite a household name but his popularity is certain to grow this fall as he takes on more reps this season following the departure of the defensive "Mr. Versatile" in Isaiah Simmons.
But for the sophomore who enters the season credited with 22 career tackles (four tackles for loss), one forced fumble, and a pass break up, it's just business as usual. He downplayed the pressure of trying to be the guy filling Simmons' spot.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity and I'm not trying to think about it as much," Jones said. "I'm just ready to go out there and play."
Playing loose yet focused is the key for Jones who said it is a dream come true to now be a starter for Clemson.
"I was telling Coach Swinney the other day I think I came to Clemson camp for the first time in sixth grade," he said. "I've been living a childhood dream. I'm blessed and thankful for the opportunity and I'm ready to go out there and do it," Jones said.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has been pleased with what he's seen out of Jones throughout the offseason and expects a smooth transition.
"Mike has a great camp and a super spring. He's in a great place mentally and I'm pumped for him," Venables said. He's work so hard beyond the football field and I'm looking forward to watching Mike play."
While it is hard to replace the versatility and 'coach on the field' presence of Simmons, Jones isn't a one-trick pony, either.
"Mike can do a variety of things," Venables said. "He's played multiple linebacker positions for us in the past. He is a really good football player and really come into his own as a leader and done a good job of controlling the controllables."