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Clemson’s Roster Management Isn’t Quite the End of the World, Yet

Syndication: The Greenville News Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK

Some bad news folks, despite what you may hear the end of the world is not coming to Clemson just yet. Despite a lot of talk about player transfers, Dabo’s refusal to use the portal, a small recruiting class, and an anemic offense, things aren’t quite that bad. There is certainly work to be done, and Clemson is going to have to make some adjustments in this new world of transfers, but Clemson’s current situation is one we’ve seen before, in fact we usually see it once every 4 years or so.

Below is a table looking at departures from the program by year as well as the incoming recruiting class following that season. So the incoming class in the 202 season was the class of 2021, etc. The departures are broken up by seniors, early entree for the NFL Draft, transfers, retirements, and dismissals.

Clemson Departures

Season Seniors NFL Transfer Retirement Dismissed Total Non-Senior Departures Total Departures Incoming Class Size
Season Seniors NFL Transfer Retirement Dismissed Total Non-Senior Departures Total Departures Incoming Class Size
2012 11 1 4 1 0 6 17 21
2013 10 3 4 2 0 9 19 23
2014 22 2 1 2 2 7 29 20
2015 10 7 3 0 3 13 23 26
2016 9 4 6 1 0 11 20 20
2017 9 4 9 1 0 14 23 14
2018 22 4 5 2 0 11 33 17
2019 13 3 3 4 0 10 23 28
2020 2 5 8 1 0 14 16 23
2021 10 3 8 0 0 11 21 12
Average 11.80 3.60 5.10 1.56 0.56 10.56 22.61 20.40

So the big takeaway to start with is just how Clemson is handicapping itself in roster management. Based on what we’ve seen over the past 10 years Clemson is bringing in classes approximately 2 people smaller than it can handle. While 2 athletes doesn’t seem like a lot, that means on a roster more or less comprised of 4 recruiting classes we could be up to 8 scholarship athletes short. And in general we’ve seen that bear out with anywhere from 4-9 walk ons being given scholarships in a given year. There will always be a few walk ons with scholarships in a given year due to NCAA rules and when transfers occur, but this is the equivalent to a self-imposed scholarship reduction. And even if Clemson fills every open roster spot this year the Tigers will still have 3 walk ons with scholarships, excluding special teams players who earn a scholarship.

The one piece of this is Dabo does have a preference to avoid greyshirting or forcing guuys out. And that is something he should continue to prioritize. It screws kids over if a coach tries to back out on a promise or pull some shenanigans to get to 85 players. But the historical numbers here show Dabo could increase his spots by at least 1-2 a year and still be safe.

Another item that stuck out in this chart for me is that despite all the doom and gloom about transfers out of Clemson the numbers aren’t that outrageous. Yes, this year is tied with 2020 for second most transfers in a year, but given the small number of seniors departing that is to be expected. Only 10 players are leaving Clemson as seniors this year. We have a high number of underclassmen right now, in particular 26 sophomores or redshirt sophomores. Guys see the writing on the wall and with the new transfer rules it makes sense that they look for opportunities at other schools.

With all that being said, there is some work to be done this year. The class is currently at least 9 players short of where it needs to be. Even if the Tigers hit on a number of uncommitted recruits they are likely to be short of the current departures, never mind any spring transfers that might happen. And that’s where the portal needs to come into play. The good news is there is no specific spot we need multiple guys. OL would obviously be nice, as would the DL to help build depth. But there are some numbers at every position on the roster outside of QB. That said, bringing in guys for a single year to contribute or help with depth would allow the staff to plan for attrition down the line and better manage scholarship numbers. Plus it would give us an excellent opportunity to shore up a few spots, we’ve seen that sometimes the preseason hype doesn’t quite work out after all.