Make-or-break position battle: Clemson

B.J. Goodson, left, is one of the few sure things in Clemson's group of linebackers. AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

We’re breaking down the biggest fall-camp position battles in the ACC for each team. Up next, Clemson.

Position battle: Linebacker depth

The candidates: Ben Boulware and B.J. Goodson have their starting gigs locked up, but behind the veterans is a sea of inexperience. With redshirt freshman Korrie Rogers quitting the team this month, Kendall Joseph -- another redshirt freshman -- is the most experienced of the remaining bunch. True freshmen Jalen Williams and Chad Smith are likely to now see ample playing time.

The impact: For the past few years, Brent Venables has enjoyed a talented group of starters on defense and also had the valuable asset of a second-string unit capable of picking up where the starters left off. This year, finding that same depth across the board is going to be tough -- particularly at linebacker.

With Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward off to the NFL and a relatively thin group behind them, getting the youngest members of the depth chart ready during fall camp is critical, Venables said.

"There’s a lot of unknown with our depth at linebacker," Venables said. "We feel like we’ve got a couple players to step in there, but after that, we’ve got a lot of guys that have never played football in a college game. Over these next couple weeks, that’s paramount to everything we do. You can’t just line up with three guys. On our defense, that’s probably our No. 1 thing."

Prediction: If there was any question at the outset of fall camp that Smith would be asked to contribute immediately, it was answered when Rogers departed. A season-ending injury to top nickelback Korrin Wiggins only exacerbated the need for depth, and Smith is now no longer a luxury. The question now is whether Williams is ready to contribute as well. Boulware, Goodson and Joseph will see a lot of playing time, but getting Smith and Williams on the fast track is now a necessity.