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SPORTS LIBRARY, Clemson, football
CLEMSON FOOTBALL: Top QB commits, gives Tigers top-ranked class

CLEMSON -- Linebacker Shaq Smith has entered the NCAA Transfer Portal and will look to play his remaining two years of college football elsewhere.

Smith had an opportunity to step into a role as a starter in the 2019 season.

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He entered Clemson as a five-star linebacker prospect, second-team USA Today All-American, Under Armour All-American game participant, No. 1 prospect in Maryland and the No. 6 overall player in the nation according to rivals.com, but has been relegated to mostly reserve duty in his first three seasons.

Smith enters 2019 credited with 29 tackles (1.5 for loss), a sack and an interception over 203 snaps in 26 career games. But can he take the next step this season? That answer remains to be seen.

After the spring game, Smith expressed his excitement about being one of the leaders on the 2019 defense.

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"Oh, man. Exciting is an understatement for me," Smith said. "Going on year four, being around some great guys. I've been here since the Ben Boulware era, the Dorians, I had the Kendalls, the J.D.s, the Treys. All great guys, all great leaders, all great players. So to be able to sit behind those guys, watch those guys lead, watch those guys, even the front four, the Christians and the Cles, all of those guys, to watch them, to see them and how they love their teammates and how they work and how they helped take this team to the top, and now for it to be a chance for me to be in those exact same roles, it's a great feeling. Because I feel like I've had great examples since I've been here, and for it to be my time and it's a great feeling.

"I feel like I have natural leadership ability, and like I was just saying, just watching from the guys who have been great leaders that came before me, just taking on what I know and bits and pieces from them, I feel like helps me into that leadership role, and I feel like I have a lot of respect from the guys on my team, and we all just bond really well, so I feel like it'll be good."

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Smith also added that he felt that coming in to Clemson and waiting his time helped him to become the player that he is today.

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"I definitely think it was me having to learn and mature. In high school when you're big, you just dominate everybody by your speed and your size and growing up, I was popped around in a lot of different schools and a lot of different cultures, so I never really had one base to learn," Smith said. "I was just here one year, I learned this here, the next year you learn this.

"So coming into one stable situation, being here under Coach V since I've been here, to learn one system, it's not as easy as it seems, and so I definitely feel like that definitely came from me needing to learn and mature. Definitely not discrediting those guys that was in front of me. Them guys were heck of players."

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Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat. He also serves as a co-host of Solid Orange, seen at 11 p.m. Wednesdays on WACH FOX 57 in Columbia.

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