Clemson Football: Four Players Poised for Breakout Seasons in 2023

Oct 8, 2022; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Antonio Williams (0) runs against the Boston College Eagles during the second quarter at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 8, 2022; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Antonio Williams (0) runs against the Boston College Eagles during the second quarter at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Best of the Best!

Clemson football fans have enjoyed more than their fair share of breakout stars through the years. In the last decade alone, the likes of Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Deshaun Watson, and Isaiah Simmons have electrified audiences in Death Valley.

2023 will be no different, as the Tigers will return with some of the best talent in the nation. But, which of these players are poised to have breakout seasons? Here are four potential contenders!

Cade Klubnik

Despite playing behind DJ Uiagalelei for the majority of last season, Klbunik made several notable appearances throughout the Tigers’ 2022 campaign, including an impressive showing in Clemson’s comeback against Syracuse, and a dramatic ACC championship entrance that led the Tigers’ to their 8th conference title in the last 9 years.

In 2023, Klubnik will be Clemson’s starter, inheriting the responsibility of leading one of the nation’s most touted offensive schemes.

With the acquisition of Garrett Riley, the Tigers’ offense is expected to be much improved in 2023, though, a great deal of that relies on Klubnik’s maturation.

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Dec 3, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Cade Klubnik (2) runs against North Carolina Tar Heels linebacker Cedric Gray (33) during the first quarter of the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

When featured on College Gameday’s coverage of the NFL Draft, former Baylor quarterback and Hesisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III complimented Klubnik’s character and his athletic potential.

"“…[Clemson is] going to be able to build a system with the perfect quarterback for that system in Cade Klubnik… he just has a thing about him that just draws people into him, and he gets the best out of them. I’m very excited for them.”"

Last season, Garrett Riley turned TCU QB Max Duggan into a Heisman contender; do not be surprised if he does the same with Klubnik this season.

Antonio Williams

For an offense that looked lethargic in the 2022 season, wideout Antionio Williams was one of the few bright spots. Over 14 games, Williams amassed 604 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns on 56 receptions. His impressive numbers earned him a spot on ESPN’s 1st Team Freshman All-American roster.

Though Williams is not as physically imposing as some other D1 receivers–the Clemson Tigers athletic site lists him at 5 ’11, 190 lbs–what really separates him is his agility. He explodes off the line of scrimmage, utilizing quick footwork to create separation from defenders, making him a premier target for short to mid-range passing situations.

This, in tandem with offseason muscle gain, will make Williams an important target for Klubnik in 2023.

Expect Riley’s new offensive scheme to turn to him more often in the passing game, as well as utilize Williams in unique ways to get him the ball in space.

Peter Woods

Even amongst a team with so much talent, it seems no other player has received as much hype surrounding his season than freshman defensive tackle Peter Woods.

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Aug 27, 2022; Alabaster, AL, USA; Thompson High defensive lineman Peter Woods (11) fights through a Lipscomb Academy blocker at Thompson High School in Alabaster, Ala., Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022. Lipscomb Academy defeated Thompson 24-14. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby-Tuscaloosa NewsLipscomb Academy Vs Thompson High High School /

Woods is one of those rare freshmen who seem to make an impact the moment they arrive on campus. The Alabama native was one of the most highly touted recruits in the 22’ class, receiving offers from several national contenders including the Crimson Tide and Georgia. Ultimately, Woods chose to play for Dabo Swinney, and his potential has been touted since.

Defensive tackles coach Nick Eason spoke highly of Woods in an interview with TIGERNET.

"“You think about great defensive tackles at Clemson, he has the tools to become that. Is he there yet? No. But does he have the tools to become a great defensive lineman and one of the best to ever come through here? Absolutely.”"

If Woods lives up to his coach’s billing, Tiger fans should expect to see impact plays being made by the freshman early and often.

Keith Adams Jr.

It’s no secret that Clemson will enter 2023 with some of the most prolific RB depth in the country. Between Will Shipley and Phil Mafah, the Tigers’ ground game seems to be set.

But hidden in the depth charts sits a Clemson legacy with the potential to be the Tigers’ next breakout ball carrier: Keith Adams Jr.

Adams, who redshirted for the Tigers last season, received limited touches in 2022. He did rush for 21 yards against LA Tech, averaging 7 yards per carry in his three attempts.

Though his in-game experience is limited, Clemson fans made note of Adam’s potential following his showcase in the Tigers’ Spring game. Adams displayed an unrelenting power-speed combination. He has the strength to break through linemen and evade would-be tacklers, while also obtaining impressive break away speed in open space.

Head coach Dabo Swinney has also noticed the young running back’s potential. Swinney was quoted by The Clemson Insider speaking highly of Adams.

"“He’s physical, he’s tough, and he’s a finisher. He scores a lot of touchdowns… So he’s got a mentality, and I love his spirit. He kind of plays running back like his dad played linebacker,—just a relentless and a high, high motor.”"

While Shipley and Mafah will split most of Clemson’s carries, expect Adams to get more touches this season, and more importantly, make an impact when he does.

Talent Throughout

While these four players are poised for big years, don’t be surprised to see more Tigers making impressive plays in 2023. Dabo and company have done a good job of reloading their roster once again this season, and Clemson’s depth chart is riddled with talent throughout.