Top Five Impact Freshmen to Watch This Spring


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Bryan Bresee is one to watch this spring.
Bryan Bresee is one to watch this spring.

Clemson returns what might be the best team in all of college football in 2020. There are playmakers galore, experience on both sides of the ball and on special teams, and what I think is the best group of incoming freshmen in the country.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t gaps to fill, and those freshmen will not only have the chance to find a spot on the depth chart, but a few of them can also compete for a starting spot. The early enrollees have a proverbial leg up on the competition and will use this spring to impress the coaches and find a spot on the depth chart heading into the summer.

We (at TigerNet) had a conversation earlier about which of those early enrollees we thought had a legitimate chance this spring to earn a spot on the two-deep or at least be a part of that conversation. Like any group, we have differing opinions and so we decided to each list our five to watch.

Spring practice starts next Wednesday, which will present the first opportunity for the media to see the freshmen in uniform. I am sure we will have plenty of thoughts then, but until then:

Brandon Rink’s Top Five

Bryan Bresee, (DT or DE)

Trenton Simpson (LB)

Fred Davis II (CB)

RJ Mickens (S)

DJ Uiagalelei (QB)

Ranking my top-5 to watch in order, Bresee was a freak at the high school level and earned the No. 1-rated player ranking nationally. It will be interesting to see how it translates to college after a few weeks on campus in spring practice. Simpson is another intriguing 5-star talent for just to see how Brent Venables will be using his skills and what his chances might be to make an immediate impact. In the secondary, Davis -- yet another 5-star talent -- is competing for an open starting cornerback spot where there isn't a clear frontrunner. Mickens is in a similar spot at safety. Then Uiagalelei rounds out my top-five because he will be competing for the spot that's a heartbeat away from leading the No. 1 team in the country.

David Hood’s Top Five

Bryan Bresee (DT or DE)

Myles Murphy (DE)

RJ Mickens (S)

Mitchell Mayes (OL)

EJ Williams (WR)

My top five is a little different. Yes, I love DJ Uiagalelei and I think he has a chance to be very special. But I also think we will exit the spring with DJ firmly third on the depth chart behind Lawrence and Phommachanh because (even if DJ is lights out) the coaches will want to keep Phommachanh engaged and Uiagalelei motivated heading into the summer.

Bresee is one of those guys we know is going to play early and often, and defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall told us that he thinks Myles Murphy will be an impact player this fall. The defensive end spot is one that needs a bit of an upgrade and Murphy is capable of doing just that. The Tigers lose three of their four most experienced safeties, and Mickens is the kind of player that can find a spot. Clemson loses all three of their interior players on the offensive line for the first time in five years, and Mayes has the mental acumen and the size to come in and play right away. Williams is a guy that I think is flying under the radar a little bit. He is smooth, runs great routes and has great hands and will find a spot on the 2-deep.

Nikki Hood’s Top Five

Bryan Bresee (DT or DE)

Myles Murphy (DE)

Mitchell Mayes (OL)

Fred Davis (CB)

Trenton Simpson (LB)

Clemson built its 2019 defense around its linebackers and secondary because, for the first time in a long time, there was a lack of experience, depth and size up front. That all changed in January when Bresee and Murphy stepped on campus. Bresee is a freak athlete, who can play both defensive end and tackle – much like Christian Wilkins. Defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall told me that Murphy is an immediate impact type of player.

Mayes comes in as a highly-regarded offensive lineman and after losing four starters – including both guards – from the 2019 squad, line coach Robbie Caldwell will be looking to rebuild depth. The offensive line is a difficult position to learn but if he can pick up the nuances quickly, he could make an early impact. Davis is a guy who can come in and compete for A.J. Terrell’s spot at cornerback, but he’ll be going against Mario Goodrich and Andrew Booth, so the competition is sure to be fierce. Cornerbacks coach Mike Reed said Davis has a drive and a hunger that is unmatched.

Finally, Simpson was a late addition to the Clemson recruiting class, but with Isaiah Simmons and Chad Smith moving on, there are positions to fill. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Simpson also see some time as a pass rusher.

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