After another stellar recruiting class, littered with elite level talent, how many of those guys can we expect to make meaningful contributions in 2018? We all know about QB Trevor Lawrence and the QB position, as it has been talked about non stop over the spring and summer, so here we will take a look at some of the other guys not named Trevor Lawrence.
Kyler McMichael & Mario Goodrich CB
I listed both of these guys together since both are corners and both have the potential to see playing time early and often. Neither were early enrollees so they will have their work cut out for them in fall camp, but with the Tigers lack of depth in the secondary, they’ll have opportunities to earn time on the field.
McMichael, a 4-star recruit, was ranked as the 9th best CB nationally by 247. At 6’ 1 and 190 lbs, he is already physically developed enough to play and fits the mold of the big, long, physical corners BV tends to favor at the position. He seems to possess a high football IQ and should be versatile enough to move around to different spots in the secondary, which is another thing the Tigers covet in corners. That versatility should allow the staff to play him at Corner, Nickel, or Safety. How quickly he can pick up the details of the Clemson defense will determine how early he can get on the field.
Goodrich, a 4-star recruit, was ranked as the 13th best CB nationally by Rivals and as the 6th best ATH by 247. At 6’ 2 190 lbs, he is another of the tall, long, physical corners the Tigers crave at the position. Like McMichael, he has a chance at making an immediate impact in a secondary that is lacking depth. He is ready physically so how much of the defense he can learn during camp will dictate how much of and how quickly he can have an impact.
Braden Galloway TE
TE is a position that has become a key cog in the Clemson offense in the Dabo Swinney era. Guys like Brandon Ford, Dwayne Allen, and Jordan Leggett became staples in this offense. When Leggett departed after the 2016 season there was a gaping void left at the position. Milan Richard had his moments last year, but never came close to the pass catching production we have become accustomed to seeing from the TE position.
Galloway, a 3-star recruit and the #41 TE nationally per 247, has the potential to change that. At 6’6 and 225 lbs he is physically ready to provide the Tigers with fresh blood and high-end potential at the position. There are some out there saying he is a more athletic version of Leggett. He should benefit from being an early enrollee when it comes to learning the playbook, but he did miss a good portion of the spring practices while recovering from a foot injury. The Tigers have to get more out of their passing game this season and Galloway being ready to go could be a big step towards accomplishing that.
Derion Kendrick WR
Clemson generally likes to rotate a lot of WRs so Kendrick, an early enrollee, should see playing time throughout the season. Receiver is a position where the Tigers are very deep, so how much and how often he sees the field is hard to say. Where he makes his biggest impact as a freshman just might be as a return guy. Him, along with Amari Rogers, could provide a major spark in the return game, something this team has been missing in recent years. He was a 5-star recruit in the 2018 class, and was the 4th best WR nationally and 26th best overall per 247.
Justyn Ross WR
At 6’ 4 and 205lbs, the 4-star recruit and the 7th best WR nationally per 247, Ross has that rare combination of size, speed, athleticism, and physicality that the Tigers covet at the WR position. He seems to be an ideal fit at the 9-man position, but with Tee Higgins at that spot, Ross could potentially move around some in order to get him on the field in 2018. He didn’t enroll early so he is another guy who will have his work cut out for him in camp when it comes to playing time, but he is too good and too talented to not have an impact in 2018.
Xavier Thomas DE
A 5-star recruit, Thomas was the #1 SDE nationally and #4 player overall per 247. At 6’ 3 270 lbs, he arrived on campus as an early enrollee and physically ready to go. Even with the depth the Tigers have at DE, it is going to be hard keeping this guy off the field. With the return of Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell, the staff now has the luxury of bringing him along at a slower pace and the pressure of performing up to his hype as a true freshman won’t be nearly as high as it otherwise might have been. Big picture wise, this should be a good thing as far as his development is concerned. He could be a big asset in 2018 off of the bench, particularly in pass rushing situations.
Jackson Carman OL
At 6’ 6 350 lbs, Carman was a 5-star recruit, the 2nd best OT nationally and 16th best overall per Rivals. A surprise pickup out of Ohio on signing day, he is an elite level OL recruit this staff had been aiming to get in the 2018 class. The Tigers recruited him as a Tackle, but he has the versatility the Tigers want in offensive linemen. The staff puts an emphasis on cross training along the OL and Robbie Caldwell has already indicated that Carman will see time at Guard in practice. Whether he can crack the starting lineup remains to be seen, though I wouldn’t bet against it. Either way, Carman is guy that will see the field a lot in 2018.
With the new redshirt rule going into affect, we are likely to see some other true freshmen getting a shot at playing time that in years past we wouldn’t have seen. I love the new 4 game rule and the flexibility it will provide coaching staffs in the future.
Let us know in the comments which freshmen you think have major impacts in 2018.