Now that the Orange and White spring game has passed, the focus shifts to the summer and fall, when the rest of the Tigers’ 2013 signees arrive on campus to get into the full swing of the program. The coaches now know what they have to offer at the different positions, and players have made their last impressions during spring practice before the recruits start to receive more of the media attention.
That being said, there is no doubt that a number of incoming freshman will receive playing time, especially since this recruiting class was ranked No. 13 by ESPN. The question is: Which ones will see the field, and which will be headed for redshirt seasons?
A number of these freshmen could be seen on the defensive side of the ball. In the secondary, it’s a given that fans will see Mackensie Alexander, who was signed as a 5-star prospect, ranked No. 2 overall at his position by ESPN. Clemson lacked athleticism at the corner position last season, not to mention the fact that it was stretched thin thanks to injuries to Bashaud Breeland, Darius Robinson and Martin Jenkins. Alexander will have the chance to compete immediately for a starting position, especially if the corners continue to show inconsistency in fall camp.
Fellow freshman corner Adrian Baker could also avoid a redshirt due to numbers and lack of athleticism. Rated as a 4-star ATH prospect by ESPN, Baker’s athletic ability will place him at corner, and he has the chance to crack the rotation along with Alexander.
Safety Jayron Kearse also has the chance to avoid a redshirt with a solid camp in the fall. While defensive coordinator Brent Venables liked what he saw out of safeties Robert Smith and Travis Blanks in the fall, depth could remain a question. Kearse has good size for a safety, coming in at 6’3", 190 pounds, and his playmaking ability may keep him in the two-deep rotation in a similar fashion to how Robert Smith was not redshirted his freshman year.
Along the defensive line, defensive end Shaq Lawson will most certainly receive playing time at the end position opposite Vic Beasley after enrolling in January after spending a semester at Hargrave Academy. The 4-star prospect had great pass-rushing ability and pursuit coming out of local Daniel High School, and the Tigers are looking for more of this from their defensive ends. It’s also why Ebenezer Ogundeko, who also arrived in January, could find himself in the end rotation. Ogundeko finished with a good showing during spring practice, notching two sacks for the White team.
Some honorable mentions included linebackers Ben Boulware and Dorian O’Daniel. Both were ranked by ESPN as 4-star prospects, but they may head for redshirts in these circumstances due to the numbers and talent the Tigers now have at linebacker. Stephone Anthony is firmly entrenched at the Mike position, with BJ Goodson’s productive spring likely pushing him to the backup spot. Spencer Shuey, Quandon Christian, Tony Steward and Kellen Jones round out the rotation at the Sam and Will outside linebacker positions. Unless they’re able to bust out in fall camp, Boulware and O’Daniel would be better served redshirting, as both have starting capability.
With Clemson still being so loaded on offense, it is very likely most of the offensive additions for this class will be heading for a redshirt. After the ACL injury put projected starting tight end Sam Cooper out for the season, it is almost certain that freshman tight end Jordan Leggett, an early enrollee who put on a solid showing in the spring, will see the field this season. Leggett flashed his ability as a flex tight end this spring, topping it off with a seven reception, 97-yard performance in the Orange and White spring game, which included a 50-yard catch and run.
At running back, both Tyshon Dye and Wayne Gallman fit the mold of the bigger back that offensive coordinator Chad Morris has been looking for. Both Dye (6'0",205) and Gallman (6'1", 200) were rated as 4-star prospects by ESPN, and coaches have told Dye to be ready when he arrives. But given that the Tigers have Rod McDowell, DJ Howard, and Zac Brooks already on the roster, it’s likely one of them still red-shirts. And for now, that looks to be Gallman.
With kickoff about four months away, more eyes will be on fall camp and the kind of impact this class can make, especially on defense, where youth in the secondary could be a huge difference in how the defense progresses in year two under Brent Venables.