Tanner Muse was a three-star prospect out of North Carolina. In addition to Clemson, he earned offers from Florida, Michigan, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, NC State, and Duke among others. He was recruited by Dan Brooks and Mike Reed and joined a Clemson recruiting class that also included Denzel Johnson, Van Smith, Mark Fields, Amir Trapp, and Kaleb Chalmers as the other DBs. The class also included several Clemson legends: Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell, and Mitch Hyatt. It is tied (with the class immediately preceding it) for the most wins in Clemson history.
Tanner Muse redshirted in 2015 before becoming a key special teams player. He split Special Teams Defensive Player of the Year honors with Chad Smith. He also garnered 106 snaps on defense.
In 2017, Muse saw his opportunities to contribute on defense increase significantly. He started nine games and played 482 snaps. He began earning a reputation as a great run-stuffing safety.
As a redshirt junior, Tanner Muse ascended to starter following Van Smith’s puzzling decision to enter the NFL draft with a year of eligibility remaining. As many will remember, there was concern about how he would fill the void left by Smith’s surprise departure, but Muse delivered.
He earned third-team All-ACC honors. He played 664 snaps in 15 starts. He had 76 tackles (2.5 for loss), five pass breakups, two sacks, and two interceptions. The Tigers ended the year by blowing out Alabama in the National Championship game. Tanner Muse was a starter on the greatest Clemson Tigers team of all-time - and maybe the best college football team of all-time (certainly the best ACC team of all-time).
As a redshirt senior, Tanner Muse took his game to the next level. He went from third-team to first-team All-ACC. He became an AP All-American (third-team) and was voted a team captain.
Muse had five pass breakups and led the team with four interceptions including this beauty against Wake Forest:
In an otherwise dominant ACC Championship Game victory, Virginia’s only two touchdowns came on plays against Tanner Muse. Most notable was a play in which he bit on a double-move and allowed Virginia’s star receiver to get behind him for a score.
This led many pundits to criticize Muse’s athleticism and call him the “weak link” in Clemson’s defense. For weeks leading up to the Fiesta Bowl this narrative built momentum.
When they finally took the field, Ohio State had all the answers. The Tigers fell behind and were in danger of letting the game totally get away from them in the first half. Already trailing 10-0, Clemson’s front seven allowed Ohio State’s star running back, JK Dobbin, to break through for what could have been the back-breaking touchdown. Fortunately, Tanner Muse outran Dobbins and made a shoestring tackle. The Tigers would hold the Buckeyes to a field goal on the possession, keeping them within reach.
May not have been a "highlight" but you win championships because of plays like this...— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) December 30, 2019
Tanner Muse hustles and runs down J.K. Dobbins to prevent a touchdown and then the Tigers D holds OSU to a field goal.
Heart of a champion.#ALLIN pic.twitter.com/50OJuRuoSO
The Tigers would come all the way back and eek out a victory. Tanner Muse’s athleticism and relentless effort on Dobbin’s long-run was a major reason why.
The Tigers eventually fell to a historically good LSU team in the National Championship, but Tanner Muse’s legacy was well-established before that. When asked what about his legacy, he said:
“I think at the end of the day, I’m going to be defined as a person more than a football player. The way I came in day in and day out. The work I put in just to get here I think is what I’m going to be defined as. How good of a person I was. How I impacted others. All these young guys I got to work with. I just appreciate them for loving on me and letting them love on me. I can’t thank them enough.”
Muse got an NFL Combine invite and if any more proof was needed to dispel the lazy stereotype that he was unathletic, he did it by running a 4.41 40-yard dash.
He should hear his named called on draft day, although it may come a little later in the calendar than normal due to Coronavirus related delays.
Tanner Muse was a part of Clemson’s football program for five years. He won five ACC Championships and two National Championships. He started in two National Championship Games. He’ll be remembered by fans as a team leader, hard-hitter, and player that got better every week. We bid farewell to a great Clemson safety, Tanner Muse.