We pick up with the Wide Receiver, Tight End, and Running Back position groups. Snap counts mentioned do not include the Alabama game.
Despite all of the talent currently on the roster this wide receiver class is an important one. We wanted some specific things with these takes and the number one priority was legit height. Remember that last summer no one thought that there was any way that Mike Williams would still be on the roster for the 2016 season. Without Peake and Williams, you really don't have a lot of height other than a 6'2 Deon Cain. Even with the three of them you don't have a true jump ball endzone threat. There was also a need to bolster depth because so many receivers get a ton of snaps.
Clemson targeted the three guys they wanted and landed those three guys. We met our needs with regards to numbers and added needed height to the position. In 2017 Clemson will look to land truly elite talent and could take 3 receivers with an outside chance of grabbing four.
Let me be clear, the coaches picked the guys they wanted from the class and went and landed their guys. No fallbacks or even moving down the board. At wide receiver in this class the "elite" talent has always been suspect. Nate Craig-Meyers, for example, started out as a composite 5* top 10 prospect but it was clear as signing day approached that the Auburn signee was overrated and struggled with consistency. I bring this up to simply point out the difference in talent level between the supposed elite WR talent and Clemson's WR class really isn't a big gap (if there is any gap at all).
Diondre Overton (6'5, 195) is a basketball player who will now be a full-time football player. He will likely redshirt so he can add some more size and work on his speed. He has great hands, can high point the ball, but still needs some more explosiveness to stick at the 9 (I think he could likely play the 9 situationally and cross-train at both the 5 and 9). I have always been very high on the potential for Cornell Powell. He is a candidate for being an elite punt returner and I think he will be very similar to Artavis Scott. He can excel at jet sweeps and being a tough runner after the catch but actually might high point the ball a little better than Scott and be a better WR at this point. I will be rooting for him since Tom Luginbill and I got into a Twitter spat when Lugi didn't take kindly to my critique of his evaluation of Powell (ESPN has him as a 3* prospect--so ridiculous...). Only question with Powell is elite top end speed. Powell had a 4.6 40 at some point and you would like to see that get to 4.5 running those sweeps at the 2. TJ Chase (6'1, 200) was identified as one of the top WR's in the state of Florida and Coach Scott went after him. Chase is really good and I can see Powell and Chase avoiding redshirts but with the depth at the position they will try to hold them. Chase has no holes in his game--solid all-around. He might not have an elite tool and needs to improve his consistency a bit but he also has the potential to make an early impact. Ridiculous talent.
The good news is that Clemson has a lot of snaps to go around. This is the deepest position on the team. Charone Peake is the lone departure, vacating 649 snaps (those will all go to Mike Williams). Deon Cain missed two complete games (and the Bama game) and still logged 310 snaps. RayRay McCloud missed three games and struggled with a knee injury but still got 287 snaps. Germone Hopper amazingly logged 437 snaps. Trevion Thompson carved out 280 snaps. Hunter Renfrow surprised everyone with his productivity and grabbed 504 snaps while Scott had 647.
We don't know what will happen with Hopper but I think it is safe to say that he could see his snaps reduced significantly, if not cut in half. That gives the opportunity for another receiver to come in and grab 200 snaps. We also don't know how the Cain situation will ultimately play out. All signs appear positive, but he is not going to get any future chances. Cain was extremely productive with 582 yards and 5 touchdowns, posting the highest yards per catch average at 17.1. He was clearly the most potent deep ball threat last year in the absence of Williams. Scott will continue his production along with Renfrow, while McCloud will see an increase in touches and production. RayRay will need to get a bit bigger and stronger in the offseason, but I fully expect him to de a dynamic threat next year. Did I mention Hunter Renfrow had 2 TDs against Bama?
So why take 3 WR's in 2017? Isn't entertaining taking 4 WR's crazy talk? The answer is--kind of. But Clemson is recruiting crazy talent that you can't pass on. You just can't. Next year you can count on Williams going to the draft, Hopper coming off the books, and Scott possibly going to the draft (we are telling recruits this is the likely scenario). Then you can also plan on one other slot opening up for someone searching for more playing time elsewhere. We are in the lead group for James Robinson (5* beast of a grown man), and recent Vols de-commitment Tee Higgins. Then you get to in-state talents OrTre Smith and Shi Smith--USCjr is already trying to negatively recruit against Clemson by saying we aren't focused on in-state talent. Both are composite 4* players and would be automatic takes in other years. I'll have more on how this could/should shake out but I am of the opinion that Clemson can take 4 WRs in the class and still manage the roster numbers. I think we should make OrTre a priority, especially because he has family ties to Clemson.
Tight End is an interesting position. The return of Jordan Leggett means we are set for next year. Only Stanton Seckinger finally comes off the books and he is replaced by J.C. Chalk. Chalk should redshirt. We met our needs this year and should be incredibly selective with a TE take in 2017, only electing to take a can't miss prospect. If we end up taking 4 WRs in 2017 then it would be better not to take a TE. I could see a bigger body like OrTre possibly becoming a pass catching TE hybrid down the road if he continues to grow (to be clear Clemson is recruiting him solely as a WR and this is my speculation if he continues to grow).
Clemson will need to give more snaps to back-ups next year to begin the transition away from Leggett. If you remember Leggett came into his junior year as a bit of a question mark after an injury riddled Sophomore campaign where his work ethic was continually questioned. Leggett got an eye popping 820 snaps and scored a team high 7 TDs with 447 yards. The only other TE to log any statistics was Seckinger with 3 catches for 25 yards. All of Seckinger's hobbled 179 snaps will go to Cannon Smith, Milan Richard, and Garrett Williams. Jay Jay McCullough quietly logged 98 snaps that will also go to these three with his departure. McCullough had been on thin ice coming into the season and had to work his way back on to the team.
Smith only got 29 snaps and Richard just 28 snaps. Decisions will need to be made with both of those players. Is Smith going to make the transition to Offensive line, because if he does, he needs to do it now rather than wait another year. Richard is physically ready but needs to grasp the mental side of the game. Williams is the future at the position and got 96 snaps (justifying the burning of the redshirt) where he was by far the best blocking TE on the team. He rattled some Bama players skulls. DJ Greenlee got 27 snaps as a RS junior and would be a prime transfer possibility if he wasn't so happy and not going anywhere. I guess he was still recovering from a knee injury but yeah...(wasn't I told he was going to be a standout LB or something?)
Once Leggett leaves, this position group will need a pass catching threat to emerge.
I have always been very high on Tavien Feaster. I had known he was struggling with a shoulder injury but wasn't aware that it was going to require surgery right now. His senior year he was used more as a wide receiver to protect his shoulder. You can see why he hasn't wanted to go all out in some of these all-star games with a shoulder needing surgery. Regardless, Feaster is multiple and gives you a legit pass catching and running threat out of the backfield with pure 4.34 laser timed speed that currently doesn't exist on the roster. Feaster must prove he can stay healthy and run between the tackles consistently to be the premier back in this offense but he will be a dynamic player in the near future who will have a role immediately on the team if his shoulder gets healthy. The Feaster addition gives Clemson much needed speed and fills the position needs for 2016. We don't have the numbers to take a back in 2017 unless they are an elite back, but need to watch out for positional depth going forward.
We lost CJ Davidson (who was the number two guy at the beginning of the year, yikes) and Zac Brooks who wanted to move on in life either to the NFL or to be an interior designer. Brooks is a good person who will be successful in life but I am sad to see him go because he brought a different dynamic off the bench that complimented Gallman (5 total TDs with 230 yards rushing and 74 yards receiving but averaged 5.8 yards per carry--tops amongst RBs). Brooks got 171 snaps that will go to those dividing up snaps behind Wayne "The Train" Gallman. Brooks certainly has to be viewed as a bit of a disappointment when his career is compared to other RBs who were available and interested in Clemson in 2012. He was highly rated and struggled to put on the needed weight and bulk to hold up in the interior. Had some great moments, however, and was a positive force on the team--just not the elite back he was supposed to be in 2012.
Wayne Gallman was a revelation this year. He is a violent runner who helps the offense keep defenses honest by providing an A gap threat we haven't had in many years. It makes the offense run at an elite level (A gap blocking is still one of the last places Clemson can still improve). He ran tough last year, but he really put it all together this year and will likely repeat his 1500+ yard performance. He improved as a blocker and a pass catcher this year, but also improved his pad level as the year went on. In the games where he struggled somewhat he was getting caught at times standing too upright. He will continue to get better and should add another 5-10 pounds of muscle mass this offseason.
Behind Gallman is where things get interesting. After Gallman (who will be off to the NFL next year) we have RS Junior Tyshon Dye, RS Sophomore Adam Choice, and RS Sophomore CJ Fuller. Dye only got 47 snaps and is still recovering from an achilles injury. He is a prime transfer candidate and will need to show he has regained his pre-injury form this offseason. He slimmed down last year but that didn't help him much. An achilles injury is one of the hardest for a RB to overcome and it usually takes 18-24 months to really be completely back. Needless to say, this is an important offseason for Dye.
Adam Choice will likely start as the number two player on the roster and will likely take over for Gallman after his departure. It was a very smart move by the coaching staff to hold Choice this past year. It evens out the roster numbers and gives you a workhorse back behind Gallman. Choice should give Clemson a great, if not elite, 1-2 punch at the RB position. Everyone I have talked to says he is fully healthy and will make a splash in the offseason. CJ Fuller was able to get 89 snaps this year and ran tougher than I expected. He will likely stay at the 100 snap mark and will have a decision about his role on the roster eventually. Fuller becomes a back you don't want to see transfer for depth reasons, especially if we don't take a back in 2017.
Overall we met our needs for next season and beyond. There will be some tough decisions in 2017 at TE and RB because of numbers limitations, but I like our O-line recruiting (the commitment to numbers and the upward curve in talent) and recruiting at QB and WR has never been better at Clemson. This offensive class doesn't have a ton of elite 5* guys but it does round out the roster and provides upgraded depth.