The Clemson defense has played at an elite level for almost a decade now. Their dominance has been built mainly along the defensive line, with loads of NFL talent manning the trenches in orange recently. The back seven has had plenty of good players contributing to the success as well, but the elite-level talent has mainly been upfront. While the line is once again dominate in 2022, Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson has emerged as one of the nation’s best in 2022. He is an elite playmaker and has the range to cover the whole field.
Clemson Linebacker Trenton Simpson is One of the Nation’s Best
Clemson has had plenty of good players at linebacker over the past few years. Guys like Ben Boulware, Kendall Joseph, Tre Lamar, and James Skalski have all been highly productive. None of them, however, had the upside of Simpson. That is a scary proposition for teams, considering how good this defense has been. Opponents already know they must adjust their game plans and blocking schemes to try and survive along the line of scrimmage. With the size, talent, and depth the Tigers have up front, the junior from Charlotte will have free reign to attack offenses from the second level.
On the Attack
Simpson was excellent in his first two seasons when attacking the line of scrimmage. He is elite when blitzing off the edge. The 6’3” 230-pound defender had 19 tackles for loss and 10.5 have heading into the 2022 season. Fast and physical, he has all the skills needed at the second level of defense. He really got going midway through 2021, when he recorded a sack in five consecutive ACC contests. His most productive game was at Louisville where he had 10 tackles and two sacks. He finished the season third on the team in tackles and second in sacks. His role in 2022 will be even greater with Skalski and Baylon Spector both gone from last year’s linebacker group.
Taking the Lead
The rest of this year’s linebackers are relatively young and inexperienced. That makes Simpson’s presence even more important. He is not only the one of nation’s best defenders, but he is the veteran leader on his own team. In the season opener against Georgia Tech, the junior did not disappoint. The Clemson linebacker was all over the field, making plays from sideline to sideline. While he didn’t play in the opponent’s backfield as much as last season, Simpson was still a major factor. He showed improved range in coverage, blowing up multiple screens and underneath throws.
Simpson is a very good tackler in space. A combination of speed, length, and physicality allows him to bring down ball carriers with great efficiency. Considering the blocking attention that will need to be paid to the defensive line, Simpson has a chance to put up huge numbers this season. He could have a campaign similar to what Roquan Smith of Georgia had a few years ago. That season Smith seemed unblockable and appeared to be in on every tackle all over the field. Simpson has the same potential in 2022.
Got Your Back
Barrett Carter and Jeremiah Trotter Jr. play alongside Simpson. Each of them was a high-level recruit who is getting their first major playing time this season. Carter was also a five-star recruit. He has the potential to follow Simpson’s path to a star player. He led the team in tackles against Georgia Tech. The sophomore shows similar speed and aggression to his teammate. They will make quite a formidable tandem for opposing offenses to worry about. Trotter Jr. is the son of a former NFL All-Pro and brings that same pedigree to the field. He was in on a sack versus the Yellow Jackets. The depth and range of this Clemson linebacker group will give ACC offensive coordinators the same number of sleepless nights as the defensive line does.