I want to explore how irreplaceable are our players. Basically, what happens if we lose player X for the year? This loss could come to major injury, quitting football, or hitting the dreaded transfer portal (Spoiler: Feaster, Shaq, and McMichael are examined below). This is not necessarily a traditional "MVP." For example: I wouldn’t have much trouble finding someone to bet on Xavier Thomas as Clemson’s 2019 defensive MVP. That being said XT plays in our defense’s deepest and most talented position group. For this reason, he would not be the MIP even if he was the MVP, because there is another awesome player to put in if he goes down.
I guess I should throw in a disclaimer here that all opinions are my own and not that of SBNation, STS, or any of its writers.
I’m only going to look at scholarship players. I’ve used 247’s list, but I’m sure I missed someone. I will not include players that have moved on to pro ball, even if they left with eligibility remaining. I’m filtering this though how much it hurts our chances to win the Natty. I’m putting players into 5 categories:
1. It’s pretty much over. We are probably not winning it all without this guy.
2. That hurts. We can still win the Natty, but losing him dinged our chances.
3. Dang, but "Next Man Up". Losing this guy didn’t do us any favors but it’s not moving the betting line.
4. Not this year. Player wasn’t expected to contribute much this year anyway.
5. Thanks for the scholarship. Player never expected to take many meaningful snaps at any point during their career. Freeing up the scholarship is more valuable than their services.
As a program we want the number of players on #1 to be zero. If we keep recruiting like we did in 18’ and certainly 20’ we can get there, but I don’t think we are quite there.
#s 2-4 is the sweet spot. It means the guy has value, but you’ve recruited other guys that have value as well. #4 is ok for a freshman and maybe a sophomore, but not an upper classman.
#5 is not a personal attack. They still have value as a person outside of football, but the ability to give their scholarship to a 2020 guy is more valuable than what they can provide on the field.
These are projections, so a fair amount is necessarily educated guess work. Disagree with my projections? Show me your projections in the comments. I really hope to be wrong about everybody I put in level one. Maybe I am considering there are only a handful of teams that can realistically win it all. That being said, not putting anyone in level one feels disrespectful to how difficult it is to win the Natty and to the other teams. I also sort of hope to be wrong about everyone in level 5. I don’t hope to be wrong in that if these guys are playing critical snaps, a lot of bad things have happened. I do hope these guys turn out better than I think they are.
Without further ado:
It’s pretty much over:
QB: TLaw: Does this need explanation? I appreciate Brice’s guts against Syracuse as much as the next fan, but I’m not buying he leads this 2019 team to the title.
OT: J. Carman and T. Anchrum – I don’t trust the backups at all. I guess if one of these guys goes down they don’t really use the backup. You move Pollard to RT and the other plays LT, Cervenka would go back to center and maybe Bockhorst gets on the field.
DT: Jordan Williams, Nyles Pinckney, Tyler Davis: I think these are our three main guys at DT. DT is a position that requires depth to win the Natty, and we get pretty weak after this and none of these guys are proven War Daddies anyway. Without these guys someone guts us up the middle and keeps the trophy out of our hands.
RB: Travis Etienne – 8+ YPC… yeah, that hurts
TE: B. Galloway*** - Already suspended for the year, but should be back for the playoffs :)
OL: J. Simpson, Gage Cervenka, M. Bockhorst, S. Pollard – as these guys go, so goes our running game
DE: X. Thomas – Recent reports suggest his head may not be screwed on just right. He doesn’t seem to have fallen off the tracks though. Hopefully, the coaches making him start at 3rd sting in practice snaps him out of whatever the problem is.
DT: X. Kelly – Kelly is important for depth, but I don’t have him on the level of the other 3. If he gets there that might pull those guys down from level 1 to level 2 with him, and that would be a great thing. Kelly still needs to prove it on the field for me to believe it though.
LB: J. Skalski, C. Smith, S. Smith***, I. Simmons – We are thin at LB, losing any of these guys would hurt. Shaq already left for Maryland which doesn’t help. There are no "proven" options behind these guys. (Related side note: Brent Venables went to Iowa St. to learn their 3-3-5 Defense over the summer. Don’t be stunned if KJ Henry or Logan Rudolph help with the LB Depth out of this formation while Muse plays the "Joker" safety. Also, you could see Muse in an LB spot on a passing down behind a 4 man front.)
CB: AJ Terrell, D. Kendrick, A. Booth: AJ is very close to level 1. If Booth doesn’t look like a 5* quickly AJ could move up there in time for Texas A&M.
Dang, but "Next Man Up"
RB: Lyn Dixon, T. Feaster*** - Feaster went to the chickens. We have talent (enough to run him off), but you don’t lose a 6.1YPC running back and say its nothing.
WR: Cornell Powell, D. Overton, A. Roders, T. Higgins, J. Ross, J. Ngata, F. Ladson – All of this depth keeps all of these guys here.
TE: J. Lay, JC Chalk – we probably spend a lot of time in 10 personnel anyway.
OL: B. Vinson, C. Stewart, C. Reeves - I would like to see all these guys, especially Reeves further down than this, but as has been discussed many many times on this site our Oline recruiting until 2020 has been subpar relative to the rest of the program.
DE: J. Foster, KJ Henry, L. Rudolph – Good pieces in a position group with good depth.
LB: B. Spector, J. Venables, R. Upshaw, M. Jones – these guys need to absorb some snaps to keep the starters from wearing out, but none seem irreplaceable.
CB: S. Jones, K. McMichael***, M. Goodrich – McMichael transferred to UNC. I know there is a lot of chatter about him being passed on the depth chart, but he is a former top 60 recruit. I wish he could have provided some depth at RB which he played well in high school if CB wasn’t working for him. I always thought his best fit was at safety, but I don’t think he ever played there. I wonder if the staff had this one to do over again, would they change how the managed and deployed him.
Safety: T. Muse, K. Wallace, D. Johnson, N. Turner – Muse is close to moving up a level especially as the Joker run stopper in the previously mentioned in the 3-3-5. I’m not sure BV tries this without the services of Muse who seems perfect for the role. Wallace is also not far from being bumped up.
Special Teams: B. Potter, A. Swanson
Not this year:
QB: Chase Brice & T. Pummachanh - Trevor is the starter and future #1 overall pick. These guys are waiting their turn.
RB: Chez Mellusi & Mikey Dukes - hit power hour and we’ll see you next year.
WR: B. Spector - Hit power hour and we’ll see you next year.
TE: Greg Williams - Hit power hour and we’ll see you next year.
OL: Boateng, Putnam, Rayburn - Hit power hour and we’ll see you next year.
DE: J. Mascoll, ET Ruben, L Cash*** – Mascoll probably can play, but has more talented guys ahead. ET needs power hour and to learn his craft. Cash needs back surgery and is out for the year.
DT: R Orhorhoro, T. Johnson – These boys need to work on their craft and spend the year in power hour.
LB: All the freshman – I know one may contribute, but I’m going to put them all here. None of these guys are super high recruits, and LB is hard to learn. Also Constantin is out for the year with a major knee injury.
Safety: All the freshman: Same as LB, I know one may contribute, but for now they all sit here.
Thanks for the scholarship:
WR: Will Brown, TJ. Chase – Its kind of a shame for TJ to be down here, but it shows pretty awesome recruiting that someone as decent/good as him is relegated to this.
OL: Godfrey, Trotter, Ryan – Godfrey and Ryan were never meant to take snaps. Trotter has already been relegated here by the 2020 class and was probably only thought of as a scout team body that keeps the locals happy anyway.
DT: Darnell Jefferies – Brian seems to disagree, but I don’t think Jefferies ever takes a meaningful snap. We turned away DT Tim Smith in this (2020) recruiting class along with maybe 2 or 3 five star DEs. All of our 2020 DE recruits are big boys that may be better suited inside. That’s why I say thanks for the scholarship. Give me any of those guys over Jefferies.
CB: B. Dawkins Jr, L. Williams – Dawkins has a scholarship because he is the son of Clemson’s only Pro Football Hall of Famer, that’s it. That’s the only reason. Almost any receiver would move to CB with no practice or notice if the game was on the line ahead of Dawkins if we got this desperate. Williams has not come close to living up to his 4* status.
Special Team: Will Spiers – We must find an upgrade here, either through his own improvement or another punter.
Well that’s my list. Offensive and overall MIP is Trevor. Defensive MIP is Nyles Pinkey. Just for reference I would have Trevor as projected as the MVP for the offense and the team as well. For the defense I’m personally leaning toward AJ, but I think they will give it to Simmons. Who you got? Let me know in the comments.
Editors Comments: LeAnthony Williams seems to have had a productive offseason and is getting positive reviews in Fall Camp. Our depth at CB will be the best we've had in a while though so he may not be heavily relied upon anyway. R. Orhorhoro may contribute quickly. We don't have a ton of depth at DT so I may have him as a bit more critical, but overall a great listing.
Article has been lightly edited by Ryan Kantor, but thoughts are those of the original author.