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Clemson safety Isaiah Simmons (11) is now also a nickel linebacker expected to start at that position for the Tigers in their season opener against Furman. File/AP

CLEMSON — Brent Venables was asked if any of Clemson's linebackers had stood out during camp.

The Tigers' defensive coordinator mentioned the usual suspects: Kendall Joseph, Clemson's  leading returning tackler; Tre Lamar, a helpful starter when he was healthy in 2017; J.D. and Judah Davis, the twins who exploded onto the scene; and Chad Smith, a special teams contributor coming into his own.

And there was one other player he mentioned.

"Right now," Venables said, "if we started today, the starters would be numbers 11, 34 and 57 with co-starters No. 33 and No. 43."

No. 43 is Smith. No. 33 is J.D. Davis. No. 34 is Joseph and No. 57 is Lamar.

But No. 11?

That's Isaiah Simmons, a safety converted to linebacker during the offseason.

The process has not been easy for the 6-2, 230-pound redshirt sophomore from outside of Kansas City, particularly given how vastly different the two positions are. But Simmons has graded out well enough to convince Venables he is worthy of a starting spot.

It goes to show just how much Simmons poured into his craft this offseason. It goes to show just how much Clemson's most intense coach trusts his positional newcomer.

"My freshman year, I learned a little bit of it ... Last year, I continued to stay on top of it just to make sure I knew it some," Simmons said. "Coming into this season, I wanted to play more. So I put a lot of other things aside and just focused a lot more on football to make sure I could get the job done. But we'll see what happens."

Simmons arrived at Clemson in 2016 as the No. 3 recruit out of Kansas and ranked No. 25 nationally at the safety position. 

Having spent the last two years picking the brain of former Clemson linebacker Dorian O'Daniel, now with the Kansas City Chiefs, Simmons actually approached Venables about the switch. 

Simmons' biggest challenge was recognizing where his help was in coverage. He had to adjust to being more involved in the run game than ever before.

"At the position, there's more you have to think about," he said. "And it's a shorter time to think."

Clemson is preparing for its season opener against Furman (Sept. 1), which could be Simmons' first start at his new position. According to Venables, he will play safety and linebacker, and coaches will evaluate his performance.

"Isaiah's got a lot of work to do but he's big and strong and can run and blitz and (has) pretty good coverage ability and can play multiple positions," Venables said. "That's what we like about Isaiah — his flexibility."

Then comes Texas A&M (Sept. 8), which will be a much bigger test for Simmons and the Tigers.

Follow Grace Raynor on Twitter @gmraynor

Grace is the Post and Courier's Clemson reporter. She graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in journalism.