Clemson Football kicks off in just a few weeks, but it is still fun to look ahead and predict how this season goes for some key players on the team. Here are some guesses about superlatives at season’s end for the 2023 Clemson Tigers.
Most likely to be a 1st round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft: Barrett Carter
This took some thought to decide between Carter and Jeremiah Trotter, Jr. By year’s end they might both be Day 1 picks. I went with Carter because I think his athleticism separates him from most other linebackers.
Comeback Player of the Year: Beaux Collins
I recently wrote about Collins being a forgotten man in the wide receiver room. His sophomore slump was primarily due to injuries. He tried to play through them but he eventually had to shut it down and have surgery. His recovery also cost him spring practice. He is behind some of the other receivers who have had more of an opportunity to learn Garrett Riley’s offense, but he has demonstrated that he has the athleticism and hands to be an impact player, and I think he shows everyone that in 2023.
Another candidate for this spot is Xavier Thomas, who has also dealt with injuries and illnesses over the past two years. I hope for the best for XT, but he will be one man among several guys on the defensive line that are likely to make an impact.
Offensive 12th Man: Phil Mafah
Many think Mafah should be starting over Will Shipley. I am not one of them, but Mafah did prove himself to me in 2022, and I think the snaps will be split more evenly between him and Shipley in 2023. Both have a chance to feast if Riley puts them in the right situations. Shipley and Mafah might be 1 and 1A this season, but since he technically comes off the bench, Mafah is a no-brainer for the most impactful offensive 2nd stringer.
Clemson Football will feature several players that can make an impact for the defense
Defensive 12th Man: Payton Page
There are so many names that can go here. Demonte Capehart. Tre Williams. R.J. Mickens. Tyler Venables. Perhaps some of the freshmen that will be discussed in the next category will emerge for this position. I’m pointing at Page because I think he can evolve into a key player when Clemson shows different formations, particularly when they employ a three-man front. Page is an ideal player to take the nose position when the defense uses a 3-4 or 3-3-5.
Freshman of the Year: Peter Woods
Clemson showed off their new class in the Spring Game, particularly on the defense. Shelton Lewis, Khalil Barns, Tomarrion Parker, Vic Burley, and Stephiylan Green introduced themselves to fans at some point during the broadcast. They all stand to be very good players, but the reality matched the hype with Woods. It will be exciting to see how he will be used and how quickly he will get into the game on the road at Duke.