After patiently waiting his turn, LaVonta Bentley made the most out of his first career start.
Now in his third year in the program, Bentley has been the victim of a crowded depth chart at the linebacker position. Despite coming to Clemson as one of the top linebacker prospects in the 2019 recruiting class, playing time has been hard to come by for the Alabama native.
On Saturday, with Georgia Tech in town for a visit, Bentley's opportunity finally arrived. As the team was warming up, it was learned that starting linebacker Baylon Spector was going to be a late scratch due to inflammation in his knee, meaning Bentley was next man up.
"It was during the pregame warm-up," Bentley said. "Spec had told me that I might have to go ahead, be ready, and I was."
Bentley made his presence felt early and often in the Tigers 14-8 win over Georgia Tech. The redshirt sophomore recorded a team-high 13 tackles, while also notching three tackles for loss and one sack. The performance earned him ACC Linebacker of the Week honors.
Cris Carter Suggests AFC East Team Should Trade For Deshaun Watson
Could Deshaun Watson make sense for a particular AFC East team? One NFL media member believes so.
Strong Clemson Defense Isn't Pointing Fingers at Struggling Offense
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables says success and failure come as a team, not to individual units.
Clemson Tigers Don't Know Offensive Identity
Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott admits that not even he knows what the Tigers' offensive identity is.
Once he knew he would be starting, Bentley said his primary focus was taking what he learned on the practice field and putting it to work for him on the field of play.
"I mean the game was fast, but I mean football is football," Bentley said. "Just taking in my responsibility and just taking it from the practice field into the game."
Linebacker is one of the deepest positions on the Clemson roster and it's a close-knit group, according to Bentley. With veterans like Spector and James Skalski ahead of him on the depth chart, Bentley has remained patient, biding his time. However, while waiting his turn, he has taken full advantage of the knowledge the veteran linebackers on the team have to share.
"We always be together," Bentley said. "Like after practice is over we will go up, watch film. Making sure we know, like the little details about each play, what's going on around us. And then they made sure, like that we know what's going on. They know the playbook like the back of their hand, like a coach. They just helped me and help the other linebackers that's in the room."
For more than two years, Bentley had been preparing for that moment, determined to play to the standard that Skalski and Spector have set. But to him, the most important thing was doing his part to ensure the Tigers came away with the win.
"The standard is the same so it shouldn't be no drop off when one person or the starter go down," Bentley said. "And that's what you know I look up to. Like, you need to be consistent and play a great game so we can win."
Want to join in on the discussion? 100% FREE! Interact with fellow Tiger fans and hear directly from publisher Zach Lentz, deputy editor Brad Senkiw and recruiting analyst Jason Priester on any subject. Click here to become a member of the ALL CLEMSON message board community today!