Aside from college baseball and softball, this is transfer portal season. As is customary at Clemson, the football team is losing pieces while the basketball team is both losing and adding them. Let’s start with football.
The bulk of the transfer portal departures came immediately following the season. Most were back-ups that were probably wise to transfer down to less talented rosters where they would be more likely to earn significant playing time. This included:
- CB Fred Davis transferring to UCF
- WR EJ Williams to Indiana
- DT Etinosa Reuben to Georgia Tech
- QB Billy Wiles to Southern Miss
- LB/DE Kevin Swint to Georgia State
- LB LaVonta Bentley to Colorado
- WR Dacari Collins to NC State
- RB Kobe Pace to Virginia
- LB Sergio Allen to California
- QB DJ Uiagalelei to Oregon State
The May transfer portal window has been less eventful. The Tigers have seen two players enter. The first is corner/nickelback Malcolm Greene. He was a four-star recruit from the greater Richmond, VA area. His PFF grades the last two years were 67.4 and 67.2 (in just 101 snaps last season). That indicates quality, but far from star level play. He was the third best cornerback on the Tigers behind Nate Wiggins and Sheridan Jones with the chance that a quickly developing Toriano Pride could also surpass him. He was expected to play primarily at the nickel, however Clemson’s excellent depth at safety meant RJ Mickens or Andrew Mukuba could also see time there as both absolutely need to be on the field as much as possible.
While losing a quality player is not ideal, Clemson has plenty of depth in the secondary to absorb the loss.
A common narrative this offseason has been that Clemson is “over” the 85 scholarship limit. This is not really the case. Malcolm Greene was the 85th scholarship recruit on the roster. Last year, they only had 82 scholarship recruits on the roster so they were able to award three walk-ons with scholarships. With 84 now, it is likely that two of those three (Hunter Helms, Domonic Thomas, and Philip Florenzo) will likely be paying for tuition. You’d love to keep them on scholarship, but Clemson has no regulatory or moral obligation to do so. There will likely be more portal defections before the first game which may allow them to be put on scholarship.
Clemson chose to use scholarships on local 3-star wide receiver prospects Tyler Brown (Greenville) and Tink Kelley (Clemson). That puts them “at their number” for wide receivers, but perhaps not at the number of high-level contributors they need to win a playoff game next season. Keon Coleman, a Michigan State wide receiver who had 798 yards and a 76.1 PFF grade, has entered the portal. He is reportedly visiting FSU. Can Clemson continue to allow the best portal players to flock to FSU? I suppose we’ll find out on September 23rd when they face the Seminoles, but FSU’s all-in portal strategy has helped them build a very strong roster for at least next season.
WR Mycah Pittman recently entered the portal. He was a solid wide receiver for Florida State last season and while he is not at Coleman’s level, he would be one of Clemson’s better options. Certainly there are character considerations when taking anybody from the portal. Neither of these players has been in notable legal trouble to my knowledge, but that doesn’t mean they’re a fit for Clemson’s culture. This is a legitimate consideration that Clemson would surely screen for, but they would fill a void on Clemson’s roster. All that said, I believe they want to open up two more scholarships for Domonic Thomas and Phillip Lorenzo if they give the newly available one to Hunter Helms.
The other Clemson transfer was kicker Liam Boyd. He was a walk-on kicker competing with Robert Gunn III for placekicker duties. His transfer may indicate that he lost the job or simply that he wasn’t going to get a scholarship win or lose and found one elsewhere. Either way, his departure doesn’t impact scholarship numbers and the team should be fine with Robert Gunn III taking primary kicking duties.
On the basketball side, Coach Brownell has been a busy man. The team’s best player, PF Hunter Tyson, graduated as did starting guard Brevin Galloway. Additionally, two players hit the portal. The first was Chauncey Gibson who came in from Texas, redshirted, and then left without playing a game. The other was Ben Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks was a raw, physical center from Florida. His biggest issue was that he averaged 7.5 fouls per 40 minutes. He was the only real shot blocker on the team besides PJ Hall and was the squad’s second best rebounder behind Hunter Tyson.
Coach Brownell may struggle to bring in highly-rated high school recruits, but he has proven he can find talented contributors from the portal and that’s what he did. First was Jake Heidbreder, a 6-foot-5 guard who led Air Force is scoring last season. While we tend to think of Air Force playing a weak Mountain West schedule, with the ACC as weak as it was last season, it was actually about even with Clemson’s schedule. He shot nearly 40% from three and has the talent to start immediately.
Next they added Jack Clark, a 6-foot-8 guard/forward from NC State. He was very efficient on offensive and strong on the defensive glass for the Wolfpack. He is not a good 3-point shooter, but can post a lot of 12 points and 8 rebounds type games and help the Tigers as a secondary scorer and all-around player. He came to NC State from LaSalle and only had a one year stay in Raleigh.
Lastly, they just added Bas Leyte. Leyte started in 19 of 31 games for UNC Greensboro last season. He can battle in the post and stay out of foul trouble. As a 6-foot-10 fourth year player, he will likely slide into the role that Ben Middlebrooks vacated. I liked Middlebrook’s upside as he continued to develop, but Leyte should be an upgrade over what Middlebrooks delivered last season (although I expect Middlebrooks to keep getting better).
While I’m not sure these portal additions make Clemson better than they were last season — replacing your best player is difficult — they should prevent any significant decline. They will be heavily reliant on PJ Hall staying healthy, but now at least have the pieces around them to be a potential NCAA tournament team if they do. They are still in the mix for former Syracuse guard Joseph Girard. The 6-foot-1 veteran guard made 88 3-pointers last season, more than anyone on Clemson. He would give Clemson some real offensive punch, even if his defense — coming over from the Boheim 2-3 zone — is a bit of a unknown. For more checkout the video above this article.