We highlighted the defensive front for the Tigers, which could be one of the best units in the nation.
We take a look at some of the impact Freshmen that could have a lot to say when Clemson takes the field in Athens on August 30th.
Dabo Swinney and his coaching staff once again did a phenomenal job in 2014 in bringing in one of the nation’s best recruiting classes. Swinney now has Clemson a regular top 15-20 finisher in recruiting classes, which is basically how you win in college football. If you recruit the best players, you have a chance to compete at the highest level, plain and simple.
2014 saw the Tigers land numerous players that could have an immediate impact for Clemson. The name everyone knows is Deshaun Watson, the highly touted dual threat QB recruit out of the state of Georgia. However, with Cole Stoudt being named the starting quarterback, Watson will likely back up all of 2014, before taking the reigns of the offense in 2015.
So who does that leave? Well, Mackensie Alexander, for one. Alexander was a top cornerback recruit in 2013 but redshirted last season. Alexander has all of the tools to be one of the best defensive backs Clemson has seen in quite some time. While the Tigers defensive backfield has been filled by such current NFL players as Byron Maxwell, Bashaud Breeland, Jonathan Meeks, Coty Sensabaugh, Marcus Gilchrist, and Crezdon Butler among others in recent years, Alexander has a chance to be better than the rest. He has decent size for a corner at 5’11″ and should be the most impactful Freshman for the Tigers this season.
After Alexander, everyone might assume that one of the four highly recruited true freshmen wide receivers would be next on the list. Instead, I’m going with running back Wayne Gallman. Gallman is currently listed as fourth on the depth chart, but after seeing him play in the spring game, it is only a matter of time before he starts stealing carries away from the other backs. Gallman ran with instensity, passion, and ferocity in the spring, impressing this devilishly handsome writer if no one else.
The last impactful frosh for 2014? How about any of those aforementioned wide receivers. Demarre Kitt and and Kyrin Priester offer the prototypical size you want out of your outside wide receivers, but they are stuck behind Charon Peake and Mike Williams for playing time. While Artavis Scott is firmly planted behind Adam Humprhies on the depth chart as the slot receiver, I still believe he will have the biggest impact of the all the freshmen wide outs. Scott is incredibly quick and agile and undeniably more athletic than Humphries. I think Scott could be a guy the Tigers turn to, even as early as the game in Athens, when they are in need of a quick hitting big play. Of course, trying to determine which one of your top receiving prospects will have the best freshman year because they almost all enrolled in school early is a fine problem to have. The Tigers have an embarrassment of riches at wideout, but I am sure that Chad Morris will find a way to keep everyone involved.
So there you have it. Mackensie Alexander is a potential All-ACC defensive back who is finally healthy in 2014, Wayne Gallman is an animal with the ball in his hands out of the backfield and could be running opponents over sooner than the depth chat may lead one to believe, Deshaun Watson will not play a single meaningful snap in 2014 if all goes according to plan, and any one of Clemson’s freshman wide receivers could step up to play a huge role in the Tigers’ offense. Right now the important thing is getting ready for Georgia, as there are just 82 days until kickoff.
We’ll take a look at the offensive line, a unit that was porous and undisciplined in the spring game and that lost former LT Brandon Thomas to the NFL draft. Games are won and lost up front in the trenches, so the 2014 Clemson Tigers may only go as far as their offensive line takes them.