One of two Clemson linebackers expected to be among the top linebacker prospects of the 2024 NFL Draft, and one of three Clemson defenders expected to be taken in the first two days, Jeremiah Trotter Jr. announced on his Instagram this week that he would be forgoing his remaining years of eligibility in order to pursue his NFL dreams. Trotter’s father was an All-Pro NFL linebacker who played from 1998-2009, spending eight of those years with the Eagles.
Unlike his father, the junior Trotter came into college as a highly-touted recruit ranked in the Top 100. Growing up in the city of his father’s team, Trotter came out of St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia, committing to Clemson as a junior in high school before joining the Tigers as an early enrollee in January 2021. Despite coming in early, Trotter failed to crack the lineup as a freshman, stuck on the depth chart behind seniors James Skalski and Baylon Spector and future third-round pick Trenton Simpson.
Trotter took the reins as a sophomore and led the team in tackles each of the past two seasons, even with Simpson still on the roster last year. Trotter was especially disruptive. In 2022 and 2023, Trotter led the Tigers in tackles for loss (28.5 combined), and despite being an off-ball linebacker, he led the team in sacks both years, as well, with a combined 12.0.
Trotter hasn’t only had a nose for the tackler, he’s done well to sniff out the ball in the air, as well. In his two years as a starter, he posted identical marks with five passes defensed and two interceptions in each year. In both seasons, he returned one of those two interceptions for a touchdown. He also forced three fumbles over that time. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranks Trotter’s performance this season as college football’s 13th-best for a linebacker.
In the past two years, only three off-ball linebackers have been drafted in the first round and only one more in the second round. Dane Brugler of The Athletic ranked Trotter as one of the top five underclassmen linebackers coming into the season. A strong junior year solidified that status as Mel Kiper’s most recent ESPN Big Board lists Trotter as the second-best off-ball linebacker in the draft behind Texas A&M’s Edgerrin Cooper, a redshirt junior who has yet to declare.
With the expectation that the same patterns will hold from previous years, Trotter may not expect to join teammate Nate Wiggins in the first round, but Trotter should still expect to hear his name called during the first two days of the draft. Even if the second round comes and goes and he remains on the board, both of the past two years showed a run of linebackers in the third round that should solidify his status as a Day 2 pick.