Trust factor

Larry Williams, Senior Writer
Tiger Illustrated

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Late in 2015, Clemson's defense and Ben Boulware's arm were hanging on by a thread as the Tigers tried to get past South Carolina and North Carolina.

Boulware was dealing with a debilitating, excruciating shoulder injury and was very much a liability in a 37-32 win in Columbia. A week later, somehow he gutted through the pain and was a key contributor as Clemson went up big on the Tar Heels and then held them off for a 45-37 ACC title victory in Charlotte.

Boulware started both of those games and played a total of 133 snaps. Because he had to; a one-armed option was deemed better than the backup option at linebacker.

Last offseason brought plenty of talk about increased depth at the Tigers' two inside linebacker positions, but Boulware ended up playing more snaps at WILL backer in 2016 (882) than he did in 2015 (850). And MIKE starter Kendall Joseph played more snaps last season (930) than predecessor B.J. Goodson played there in 2015 (911).

The past two seasons are important context in the present analysis of Brent Venables' linebacker corps. Everything points to the desired depth materializing this year, with more rotations bringing more options and a fresher group of linebackers late in the season.

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