College News & Analysis

Born for this: Clemson's Jeremiah Trotter Jr. is following in his father’s footsteps at linebacker

  • Clemson linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. sits down for an exclusive interview with PFF.
  • The best returning linebacker in college football: Trotter is both a projected top-10 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and is our top returning linebacker in the country.
  • Continuing his dad’s legacy: His father, Jeremiah Trotter Sr., was a four-time Pro Bowl linebacker and is a member of the Philadelphia Eagles’ Hall of Fame.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Jeremiah Trotter Jr. was born to patrol the middle of defenses.

His father, Jeremiah Trotter Sr., was a four-time Pro Bowl linebacker and is a member of the Philadelphia Eagles’ Hall of Fame. He also instilled everything he learned over the years into his son. 

“Learning from my dad was an experience that I really enjoyed because of all the knowledge he’s gained throughout his career in college and the NFL,” the younger Trotter said in an exclusive interview with PFF. “All of the great minds that poured into him, he was able to pour out into me. It really helped me become the linebacker that I am today.”

Despite being a five-star recruit, many programs doubted whether Trotter could even stick at linebacker due to his size. One of the reasons he chose Clemson was that they didn’t judge him off his measurements, just his on-field ability.

“I went to [Clemson’s] camp in my sophomore or junior year of high school,” Trotter said. “I put on some size, I was around 210 pounds. [The coaches] wanted to see how I moved and played the game of football at that camp. They really liked it and ended up offering me a scholarship. They were one of the first schools that didn’t make an impression off how big I was at the time. They based it off how I played the game. I really appreciated that.”

Trotter proved Clemson’s coaches right this past season. The sophomore was a third-team All-American for PFF and particularly excelled on passing plays. Trotter’s 42.9 passer rating allowed when targeted and 47.6% open-target rate allowed ranked second in that same group. He was also the only Power Five linebacker who earned 80-plus grades as both a pass-rusher and in coverage. Trotter believes that flexibility in his game sets him apart from other players at his position. 

“For my game, I think I’m very versatile,” Trotter said. “I feel like I don’t have a major weakness in my game. If you need me to cover a running back or tight end, I can do that. If you want to blitz me, I can blitz. If you need someone who’s physical in the run game and taking on linemen, I can do that. That’s a part of my game that separates me from a lot of linebackers.”

That all-around skillset helps make Trotter the top returning linebacker in college football and a projected top-10 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. While he’s appreciative of the hype, Trotter is simply focused on the here and the now. 

“It’s definitely a blessing,” Trotter said. “It’s definitely exciting when you think about it. But I don’t let those rankings get into my head too much. I don’t want to stop doing what I did to get to this point. Of course, in my mind, I’m the best around. I know the work I’m putting in is paying off so I just need to put my head down and keep working.”

While Trotter is a projected first-rounder by most analysts, there are still some out there who doubt him due to his smaller stature. At 6-feet and 230 pounds, he’s around two inches shorter and 10 pounds lighter than the average linebacker according to MockDraftable. Trotter acknowledges those concerns but thinks his tape should quell them pretty easily. 

“I understand their point of view,” he said. “You definitely want size at that position. But at the end of the day, you have to look at the film. In this year’s draft, people were doubting Bryce Young for his size. But when you looked at his whole college career, he was just dominant. You can’t just only look at numbers. You need to look at the film and see what they do on the football field.”

As for the tape that those critics should turn on, there’s one play that stands out above the rest for Trotter.

“The third down against Miami,” he said. “They need one yard. It’s me and the running back in the hole. I can’t go backwards. If I go backwards, they get a first down. As a linebacker, that’s one of the plays that I pride myself on. That’s just an Oklahoma drill, ‘Who’s gonna win?’ type of play and one that you want to see out of your linebackers.”

Not only did Trotter stop running back Jaylan Knighton on that third-and-1, he also shut down quarterback Jacurri Brown the play before on second-and-2. To complete the hat trick, he chased Knighton down on fourth-and-1 to create a turnover on downs for the Tigers.



While exposing his biggest detractors is fun for Trotter, he’s focused on much more important things.

“My goals are pretty simple,” he said. “Make the most of the opportunities I get to help out my team. Hopefully in the end, if I’m doing my part and leading my guys around me, we will win a national championship.” 

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