Jackson Carman at 333.
It feels a bit surreal writing about an upcoming season. I’ve started and stopped this article multiple times since it feels like a guilty pleasure or like writing about the season will inevitably lead to it being canceled. I’m going to structure this by asking a series of questions that I view as the main camp story lines heading into the season.
PS. Every time anyone writes about college football this season, it should be accompanied by an obligatory thanks to Trevor Lawrence. The TLaw is mighty and benevolent (seriously the legend gets engaged, saves CFB, wins the Heisman, and leads Clemson to another national championship—unreal...)
How will the team look coming off of COVID S&C training?
First, Dabo was correct in praising the team’s overall conditioning at the start of camp. With players being outside of their normal training routines, it can be a recipe for regression, but the vast majority of players made gains over the Summer. Carman at 333. Walker Parks up to 298 (and it wasn’t bad weight). Darnell Jefferies at 292 (good for this young man who was battling through illness and a type 2 diabetes diagnosis last year!). Booth at 196. DJ at 245 (don’t gain anymore weight, right now he carries it really well). Ladson at 208. Ngata at 219. Good work.
Only XT, coming off of COVID and strep complications, seems to have taken a step back with training. I think Dabo’s plan with redshirting XT is a genius level move. Save him for the last game, the ACC championship, and playoffs. If he does well he makes his money in the NFL. If not, he comes back for another year.
How will the team replace 4 of 5 starting O-linemen?
Did I mention Jackson Carman at 333. Everyone knows I’ve always been a Carman fan, but I am ridiculously excited for this coming year. If Carman continues down this trajectory he will be a potential first rounder, high second round draft pick. He is still a massive mountain of a man, but he has put in the work to slim down just enough to unlock even more of his athletic potential.
You have from left to right LT Carman, LG Bockhorst, C Cade Stewart, RG Putnam, and RT McFadden. This group has a good bit of cohesion because they repped together last year as the second group. The group chemistry is there which is a bit unique when you are replacing four starters.
It’s no surprise that I’m not thrilled with Stewart at Center, but no one has emerged to supplant him yet. I will say he has come along way from the player who was inexplicably thrown into the fire as a Sophomore starting games (a decision I still can’t believe happened).
Bock was basically a third cog last year who has logged a lot of snaps. I don’t have any reservations about him starting. McFadden is trying to take his game to the next level. He is still a work in progress but should pass Anchrum as a player by the end of the season. He has the talent and likely replaces Carman at LT next season (that will be an interesting situation with Walker Parks repping now at LT but playing RT in high school). Putnam has made steady progress (sooo glad we got him from FSU).
So the first team is overall very solid and probably doesn’t take too big a step back once they get a few games under their belts. There is the potential to be an improvement over last season.
Depth is going to be a concern all season.
Walker Parks is your second string at LT. He came in having put in the work to be ready with size and strength, but he didn’t go through Spring ball. As the install has picked up, he is swimming a bit, which is to be expected. Mitchell Mayes is repping at both LT and RT and could end up as the primary backup RT. Paul Tchio is also taking reps at RT, but he played guard primarily in high school, so it is more of a transition. All the freshman linemen are hitting a camp wall where the playbook and advanced techniques are catching up to them. Brent Venables doesn’t make life easy. Not a single snap from a backup at Tackle (and no, Cade Stewart can’t play Tackle...yikes.).
Blake Vinson still isn’t healthy and he was supposed to be the veteran depth. He has been in a yellow jersey all of camp. I’m not sure his knee is going to let him be an effective backup and he is one of only 4 upperclassmen O-line on the entire team (only 6 O-linemen on the team who aren’t freshmen!?!). Horrible situation with regards to experienced depth.
Boateng and Trotter have been out with protocol (meaning they might have come in contact with someone with COVID—yes, just coming in contact leads to sitting out and quarantining from the team). Johnson, who moved over from DT and needed to practice, has been out. Rayburn just isn’t ready yet to challenge for real snaps. Reserve walk-on Jacob Edwards is getting snaps. Tucker reshaped his body over the summer but hit a camp wall. Not a lot of options for interior depth or tackle depth (and the reason I’ve been beating this dead horse for years).
If the starters stay healthy, no harm no foul, but if you have three injuries to that front it gets scary fast and risks the health of TL (who shouldn’t play with reserves early in the season!).
Cornell Powell. Duh.
Speak it into existence...
My name for a reserve last year who could surprise was Mike Jones Jr. I was a year too early. Jones is your Nickel/SAM and should start the year getting those snaps.
Andrew Booth looks healthy and will challenge for the second corner spot if Goodrich can’t put it together. Goodrich is the current starter with Jones and Malcolm Greene, who has splashed in camp, and even LeAnthony Williams is nipping at his heels. Goodrich had a stomach bug and missed the scrimmage.
Baylon Spector is starting and should make an impact.
Braden Galloway is going to be a force and a major part of the passing game (hopefully making up some of the slack for the passing game). Davis Allen is your blocking TE who can be a dual threat.
Freshmen to watch?
Myles Murphy is a player. He could log the most meaningful snaps out of all the talented freshmen. With a lack of pass rush options he will be thrown into the fire, but he has a solid foundation—just needs to master some details. Foster and Henry are the starters, but Murphy has logged first string snaps (Foster was also out for the scrimmage). The increased scrutiny comes from the fact that he is already in the two deep (coaches aren’t talking about him splashing because they are already going to rely on him).
Bryan Bresee has made serious strides over the Summer. In the Spring, he looked outmatched at times (and dealt with a knee injury) and didn’t know how to get off blocks enough with his hands. He is going to play this Fall and will be a versatile piece on the D-line. He is being used as a 3-tech DT and, when using an odd front with three lineman, as a DE (much like Christian Wilkins). Just line him up and let him rush the passer.
Tre Williams is a quick twitch, disruptive player who gets behind the line of scrimmage. Got a bit of Grady Jarrett to his game. Capehart is a massive body but still putting it together. Hopefully they can hold at least Capehart, but DT has quickly become a strength of the team.
Malcolm Greene is a baller. He has made such an impression that he is getting legit looks at being in Nickel and Dime packages as a kind of Ryan Carter/jack of all trades/K’von Wallace. His ability could help shore up the pass coverage this season.
Demarkcus Bowman. All the feedback I have gotten is that he is dynamite. If they let him on the field and just run—watch out. 7 RB’s is too many on the roster but Bowman is the future. Kobe Pace finally gives Clemson a short yardage big back who can run between the tackles.
Fred Davis isn’t going to start and could end up redshirting but early returns are that we hit on him.
DJ Uiagalelei can spin it. Almost too much velocity at times. He is in an advanced place with his understanding of the offense. Taisun does a lot of nice things but at this juncture it is hard to see DJ not being the starter next season (might do a co-starter thing to start the season but DJ has too much upside).
Alright, lets talk football!