Clemson isn't going anywhere, despite what the opposition thinks
|Thursday, January 7, 2021, 8:01 AM- -|
The days and weeks following a disheartening loss are filled with doubt and questions, especially when it happens to a program that has reached the national status of a school like Clemson. For the haters, it’s a chance they don’t get very often, to stand up and thump their chests and proclaim that Clemson is now on the downhill slope.
Sorry folks, Clemson isn’t going anywhere, no matter how much you hope. No matter how many times your team has lost to Clemson in the preceding years, more beatdowns are coming. No matter how much you want it to happen, the Tigers aren’t going anywhere. As I wrote in a previous article this week, one game doesn’t define a program.
We’ve taken a look at the bad from the game, and yes, there are questions heading into the spring. But there is a lot more good than bad, and I’ll help out those who question the program’s direction.
Let’s start with the lifeblood of any program – recruiting. Yes, stars matter. Yes, development matters. And Clemson is great at both. The recent commitment of 5-star Tristan Leigh vaulted Clemson into the No. 4 spot in the 2021 class rankings, and he simply adds to a class that includes standouts like running backs Phil Mafah and Will Shipley, versatile defender Barrett Carter, and stud offensive linemen.
Despite the pandemic and despite factors that have caused many in the program to shout that Clemson will no longer be able to haul in the top recruits, Dabo Swinney and his staff continue to recruit at a high level. Oh, by the way, they’ve got a pretty good start on the 2022 class as well.
Looking ahead to next season, the Tigers will be stacked offensively despite the losses of Trevor Lawrence, Cornell Powell, and Amari Rodgers. All of the tight ends except for JC Chalk are back, the offensive line loses Jackson Carman after his Wednesday NFL draft declaration, but a lot of snaps are returning and several of the youngsters like Walker Parks are more than ready to take on a bigger role.
The running backs room adds Shipley and Mafah, but Lyn-J Dixon appears poised to take on the starting role and will be pushed by Chez Mellusi. The receivers add three talented players and hope to get players Joseph Ngata and Frank Ladson healthy to join EJ Williams and possibly Justyn Ross. That isn’t every name – those will come on deep dives later – but just a glimpse of what is to be expected.
Defensively, it’s possible every starter will be back. I am hearing Xavier Thomas is leaning towards returning, as are James Skalski and Nolan Turner. Add in a healthy Justin Foster and all of a sudden there is depth at defensive end. I could see Thomas and or Foster starting at one end spot with Myles Murphy at the other spot, with players like Justin Mascoll and Greg Williams and KJ Henry adding depth. Also, any one of those guys could jump up and grab a starting spot, which should be up for grabs in the spring.
Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis should be back to start at defensive tackle, with Ruke Orhorhoro, Etinosa Reuben, Tre Williams, DeMonte Capehart and Darnell Jefferies joining signee Payton Page to form a deep and talented group.
The linebackers – if Skalski returns – should all be back with a year of growth under their belt. The same goes for the much-maligned secondary, where it’s hoped that talented youngsters like Fred Davis (corner) and RJ Mickens (safety) should take steps forward. Kicker BT Potter should return (punter Will Spiers is up in the air) to provide consistency on special teams.
In other words, the team that won ten games during a pandemic should be back almost intact defensively and simply replaces talent on offense with talent.
This team, this program, isn’t going anywhere. One game doesn’t change that.