Replacing James Skalski will not be easy.
Skalski has been the quarterback of the Clemson defense in recent years, anchoring the middle of an extremely stingy Tigers’ unit. However, Skalski is now off attempting to make his mark with the Colts, registering four tackles in his preseason debut. That means it’s next man up at Clemson.
Keith Maguire and Jeremiah Trotter Jr. have been locked in a heated battle to take over that ever-important spot in the middle of the defense and defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin recently made note that it’s a battle that could rage on until the Tigers kick it off against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
“That spot probably will go all the way up until kickoff,” Goodwin said.
Maguire has the edge when it comes to experience, as the redshirt junior has patiently waited his turn.
“Skalski and (Baylon) Spector were here for so long, but when they left, you realize that you gotta step up and take that lead,” Maguire said. “I like it. It’s good. I’ve been kind of waiting for them, not to leave, but to have an opportunity to help lead the room and I’ve loved it, man. It’s been fun.”
Although Trotter, the son of former NFL linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Sr., also brings a lot to the table, as well, including an extremely high football IQ.
“I feel like he came in as an old man from that standpoint, his dad being a long-time NFL player,” Goodwin said. “Really, really smart beyond his years. Just learning the scheme and where his help is run-fit wise, what safety we’re using here and there. And from a zone-coverage standpoint, just getting better at playing with vision and that sort of stuff.”
While there may not be a clear cut favorite to win the job, it’s a good problem to have, as Goodwin feels his defense can perform at an extremely high level with either Maguire or Trotter on the field.
“I feel like both of them could run out there the first play and win for us,” Goodwin said.
Clemson and Notre Dame have released depth charts ahead of this weekend’s matchup at Death Valley.
For the second time this season, Clemson will be an underdog at home.
Despite Clemson’s astonishing loss to Miami, the Tigers will head to Raleigh next week favored over NC State.