We're breaking down the status of each position on the Clemson football team every week until kickoff.
By Matson Montilla
Position Coach: Wes Goodwin
On Dec. 14, 2021, Goodwin was named the defensive coordinator and linebacker coach for the Tigers. The Cheez-It Bowl was the first game he coached in his new role, and he put together a solid defensive effort. The Tigers’ defense held Iowa State to 13 points and under 300 total yards of offense.
Interestingly, to start his coaching career, he was a part of Mississippi State’s baseball staff for three seasons before switching to coaching football. In 2009, he joined Clemson as a graduate assistant for his first role in college football. Three years later, he earned a full-time position at Clemson as a defensive analyst before making the jump to the NFL as the assistant to head coach Bruce Arians with the Arizona Cardinals.
He then returned to Clemson as the senior defensive assistant in 2018 and has been with the program since.
Throughout his career, Goodwin has been held in a high regard by players and coaches.
Starter: LaVonta Bentley
With James Skalski out of the fold, it is time for a new face to emerge at the middle linebacker position. That face seems like it will be redshirt junior LaVonta Bentley. Bentley has been a great player for Clemson despite playing a relatively limited role in his three years at Clemson. Statistically, Bentley has tallied 44 total tackles (eight tackles for loss), 4.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles in two years since redshirting his first year.
Although Bentley is 6’0, he is stout and weighs 235 pounds. Due to his frame, he can deliver big hits and fill the hole Skalski left behind. He can also accelerate well to close in on the opposing backfield.
Best of the Rest: Keith Maguire
Like Bentley, Maguire was a part of Clemson’s 2019 recruiting class. After redshirting his first year, Maguire had limited time on the field, appearing in nine games the past two seasons. Despite that, his impact was felt on the field in coverage, totaling 22 tackles (three tackles for loss), one interception, two passes deflected, and a forced fumble.
The thing that separates Bentley and Maguire is the playstyle. Maguire can deliver big hits when needed but excels at dropping back in coverage. Maguire can help add a new element to Clemson’s pass coverage.
Although Bentley may get the nod to start the season, Maguire will find the field a lot with his pass coverage ability.
Rising Star: Sergio Allen
Although it may seem odd to put a rising redshirt sophomore as a rising star, he deserves to be mentioned here. Allen has only appeared in four games in two years at Clemson, but he has the traits to be a great inside linebacker. With another year to progress, Allen can grow into the player he was recruited as, a smart, all-around linebacker who can close gaps for tackles and drop back in coverage when needed.
What will make 2022 a success?
The goal for the middle linebacker position is to fill the hole Skalski left on the field, supporting the run defense. If the Clemson middle linebackers can do this, everything else is icing on the cake.