Clemson Football: Who will replace Dorian O’Daniel?

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: Quarterback Jalen Hurts
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: Quarterback Jalen Hurts /

Who will replace LB Dorian O’Daniel? That may be the biggest question for Clemson football as we head into the 2018 season.

One of the anchors of Clemson football’s defense in 2017 was Dorian O’Daniel.

O’Daniel showed up each and every game and you always knew he was on the field. He took on the responsibility of defending some of the opponent’s best receivers and was able to stop the run, as well.

His skill will truly be missed in 2018.

As a matter of fact, one of the biggest questions heading into this year will be who replaces O’Daniel at that strong-side linebacker position.

The candidates…

  • Sr. Jalen Williams

Jalen Williams was O’Daniel’s backup for the better part of the year. He has played that position and has great experience.

He is also a senior. I’d expect him to get the nod, at least in the spring, to be the starter at the spot.

If he can get a hold on it, it will be his. He will, however, have to earn it.

  • RS So. Shaq Smith

Everyone forgets about Shaq Smith.

Smith, a 5-star linebacker out of high school, hasn’t made much of an impact since arriving on campus three years ago.

That’s normal, though. It typically takes some time for a linebacker to develop into being able to contribute at a high level.

This would be the year for Smith to make that jump. He played the weak-side linebacker spot last year, but I think he’ll get a look at the opposite side this season.

  • Fr. Mike Jones Jr.

Could freshman Mike Jones Jr. step in right away and earn a starting spot?

It’s not likely, but he will certainly have a chance to make some waves, especially since he is an early enrollee.

I wouldn’t say that this is likely, but if he earns a second-string spot, he could definitely play into the role if some of the other guys aren’t performing at a high level.

Next: Will Mark Fields reach his full potential in 2018?

It should be interesting to watch, but right now it’s clear that the Tigers haven’t found a replacement for Dorian O’Daniel. The good news is that they have some time to develop a couple of guys into the role.

There are a couple more options other than the three listed above, but I think there’s a good chance that one of these guys steps up into this spot.