Clemson Football: Positions where the Tigers could take a transfer this offseason

Nov 11, 2023; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney and defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin signal during the fourth quarter against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 11, 2023; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney and defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin signal during the fourth quarter against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s one of the most discussed topics in Tiger Nation right now: will Clemson Football use the transfer portal more this offseason than they have in the past?

It’s no secret that Dabo Swinney prefers to recruit and develop high school players rather than take transfers. He’s cited multiple reasons why he has this preference and why the Tigers ultimately have only taken two transfers since the advent of the transfer portal and the relaxation of rules restricting transfers.

It’s a common belief that the Tigers don’t entertain the possibility of transfers, but insiders have noted that Clemson has reached out to players in the portal over the past two offseasons. I don’t have a list but the total is approaching double figures if not beyond that already, and that’s only the players that the insiders have found out about.

This season we see more signs that Clemson’s reluctance to use the portal might be waning. Swinney himself has noted during his press conferences that the team will likely need to use the portal this season, though the references have been subtle.

These players have the option to use their ‘COVID’ season in 2024.

  • Walker Parks – he has confirmed he is returning in 2024
  • Tyler Venables – Swinney has strongly suggested Venables will play in 2024
  • RJ Mickens
  • Mitchell Mayes
  • Brannon Spector
  • Hamp Greene
  • Ruke Orhorhoro
  • Paul Tyson
  • Aidan Swanson

I am presuming that Jonathan Weitz will be leaving the team after this season.

These players will be completing their third season in the program and are eligible to declare for the NFL Draft.

  • Barrett Carter
  • Andrew Mukuba
  • Will Shipley
  • Phil Mafah
  • Jeremiah Trotter
  • Nate Wiggins
  • Jake Briningstool
  • Payton Page
  • Marcus Tate
  • Beaux Collins

I think at least two of that group will be leaving for the NFL. I think four of them are very likely to return. The rest are in a gray area right now. My guess is four of those players leave for the NFL and the other six return in 2024.

Several redshirt sophomores could declare for the NFL Draft but they aren’t likely candidates. It is possible we could see some transfers out among that group, as the end of the third year is often when players have enough credits to earn their degrees. That is not an unusual departure point if a player wants to look for more playing time elsewhere.

While many of these departures have been budgeted by the staff, it does seem likely that Clemson will have room for 3-4 transfers, depending on how many players transfer out of the program.

These are the position groups it seems most likely Clemson Football could add transfers this offseason

Linebacker: Numbers are a bit depressed here, but there may be a method to that madness. The Tigers had several experienced safeties this season, and have often removed the strong-side linebacker in favor of a nickel/safety hybrid like Mukuba or Khalil Barnes. If the Tigers only utilize two linebackers most of the time, that reduces the need for numbers at the position.

Trotter and Carter are likely going to leave for the NFL, meaning Wade Woodaz would be Clemson’s most experienced linebacker. The reviews of Clemson’s younger players have been overall positive, and they have Sammy Brown coming in 2024. Brown might be too good to keep off the field, but it’s a risk to assume that any freshman, even a 5-star, will be ready to start right away.

A transfer linebacker who could start if needed would make a lot of sense for Clemson.

Defensive End: We know Xavier Thomas and Justin Mascoll will exhaust their eligibility. TJ Parker has been very good as a freshman, but no one has stepped up to be his clear running mate on the other side of the line in 2024. Cade Denhoff has been the next guy up but hasn’t locked the spot down.

The Tigers could go into 2024 with the plan that Denhoff will compete with guys like Zaire Patterson and Jaheim Lawson, along with the other freshmen from this season. That’s a risk to assume someone will emerge from that group.

Just like at linebacker, it makes sense to add an experienced player who can be a starter if needed.

Wide Receiver: I do not think Collins will leave the program. That has been a popular talking point among many Clemson fans because he hasn’t been as good as they want him to be, which is a fair opinion. That doesn’t mean he has fallen out of favor with the staff, and it is presumptuous to think Collins will leave simply because he expects to lose playing time to true freshmen who have never stepped on a football field for a college team, no matter their rating. Even Tee Higgins needed a season to acclimate.

Unless there is an unexpected transfer, Clemson will return Antonio Williams, Collins, Tyler Brown, and Troy Stellato, with the freshmen Bryant Wesco and TJ Moore coming in, with several other reserves. From the perspective of numbers, I don’t think Clemson needs a transfer here.

From the perspective of talent, a transfer wouldn’t hurt, but I don’t expect Clemson will recruit a wide receiver from the portal for the sake of recruiting a wide receiver from the portal. I think they will set their sights high here, and experience says those guys don’t gravitate towards what Clemson offers.

I think Clemson will likely have two departures from the wide receiver room after this year. At least one will be a transfer.

Unless some philosophies regarding early communication with transfer candidates and the use of NIL for recruiting purposes change in the Tiger program, I don’t anticipate a wide receiver transfer unless there is at least one more unexpected transfer out. That’s possible, but not a lock.

Kicker: this has been another position discussed by fans but keep one thing in mind: Clemson has a very highly regarded kicking specialist coming in 2024 in Nolan Hauser.

Hauser is setting records in high school ball. Per Hauser’s father, Scott (a Clemson alum), Hauser needs two more points to reach 400 points in his high school career.  Only two other kickers have reached 400 points in a career per MaxPreps.  Hauser would be the third.

I think the mindset is that fans would still like a kicker with experience to join the program to compete with Hauser during the 2024 season, and that isn’t unreasonable. Robert Gunn was highly regarded out of high school as well, but he hasn’t been effective this year. That might be due to a significant injury he suffered as a high school senior, or he might have not adapted well to the college game. Either way, just because someone was very good in high school doesn’t mean they will be very good in college.

This all depends on the staff’s perspective following a trying season on special teams. A transfer kicker isn’t a stretch but is far from a lock.

Safety: This is a place where departures could dictate a need from a numbers perspective, but it is difficult to see that clearly right now. Jalyn Phillips will be departing. Mukuba is a possible early departure for the NFL. Mickens could go that route too, but I think he returns. Mukuba isn’t a lock to leave.

The younger safeties have played well, but if both Mickens and Mukuba were to leave, the Tigers might consider a transfer here. I would still set the odds low.

Offensive line: This seems to be a lock, but what direction this goes depends on several things.

We know Parks returns. I don’t think Tate departs, but I have a hard time reading his situation. We do know Putnam will exhaust his eligibility.

Does the staff think Ryan Linthicum is ready to start? If not, they either need to take a transfer or move someone. Since you probably want a guy with at least two years left, it likely means someone like Colin Sadler or Harris Sewell would make that shift.

The other caveat here is the leadership on the sidelines. Thomas Austin has been under fire from fans. Garrett Riley wants to run counter-plays that involve pulling by the linemen. It hasn’t worked out this season, and in the last two games they have abandoned that strategy.

Will Riley want to go back to it in 2024? Will he want someone other than Austin to train the line in those principles? Plenty of other teams run counter-plays competently. Clemson should be able to do it.

Will Riley be the offensive coordinator in 2024? If not, could Swinney want someone who is going to utilize a north-south blocking scheme that the Tigers have used successfully the past two weekends? If yes, might Austin be the right guy for that?

Lots of questions to answer here, and on top of that there are still a couple of 2024 prospects that Clemson wants to land. How a transfer for the offensive line would develop, and how many, is still TBD.

Apologies to anyone who wanted to see quarterback on this list, but anything there is purely speculative, and is probably dependent on some of the things I mentioned while discussing offensive linemen.

We will get some clarity on departures starting the Monday after Thanksgiving.

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