Who will step into the starting lineup for Clemson Football in the Gator Bowl against Kentucky?

Clemson will have some open spots in their starting lineup due to transfers and opt outs. These are the players who will step into those roles for the Tigers.

Nov 4, 2023; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson defensive tackle Peter Woods.
Nov 4, 2023; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson defensive tackle Peter Woods. / Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports
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Clemson Football typically sees fewer players enter the transfer portal or opt out of bowl games than most programs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t encounter turnover before their postseason.

This year multiple players have elected to opt out so they can begin their NFL preparations, and others have entered the portal.

Unfortunately, this means some spots in the starting lineup will need to be occupied by players who are normally backups.

Thiese are the depth charts for Clemson Football going into the Gator Bowl against Kentucky.

Only one change to note for starters on the offensive side of the ball.

Out: Beaux Collins – Collins elected to enter the transfer portal for his final season and will play for Notre Dame in 2024.

In: Adam Randall – Randall began the season in the starting lineup but eventually settled in as a backup. The positive is that Randall is no stranger to starting and did make some clutch catches for the Tigers during their four-game winning streak at the end of the season.

Note that right now the depth chart has both Tyler Brown and Antonio Williams playing in the slot. Considering Williams is returning from an injury that cost him a big chunk of the season, they might not be 100% certain how many snaps he can take, so it might make sense to keep him in the slot for the bowl game.

As for 2024, I have a hard time believing they would keep (in theory) the best two wide receivers on the team in an ‘Or’ situation. I expect that one of them will move to an outside position next season.

Two other things to note for the offense:

  • With the exit of Mitchell Mayes, Zach Owens slides into the backup right tackle spot
  • Keith Adams Jr is third-string running back following the departure of Domonique Thomas

There is a bit more to digest on the defensive side of the ball

Out: Jeremiah Trotter Jr. – Our favorite axeman made the expected decision to enter the NFL Draft and opted out.

In: Kobe McCloud or Wade Woodaz – Woodaz is listed as the ‘starting’ strong-side linebacker, but the Tigers haven’t always been utilizing three linebackers. My guess is that Woodaz is the man who will be at the MIKE alongside Barrett Carter at the WILL. McCloud will rotate in, especially if they utilize Woodaz at SAM.

Out: Ruke Orhorhoro – Ruke is going pro and opted out

In: Peter Woods – TJ Parker might have been the biggest surprise freshman on the defense this season, but P-Woo did exactly what we expected. He was a solid rotational player on the line this season.

I wouldn’t say Woods getting this spot is a surprise at all, but I did wonder if Demonte Capehart might get it instead, simply because of seniority. I fully expect Woods and Capehart to be the starting tackles in 2024. That will be something to behold.

Out: Nate Wiggins – He is going pro and opted out

In: Shelton Lewis – The Tigers are going to be thin at cornerback, but the ones they have in the starting lineup are good, albeit young. Avieon Terrell ascended into one starting spot during the season, but Lewis was strong too, and he is a no-brainer to step in for Wiggins.

The backups are going to be a bit of a rollercoaster. Myles Oliver will back up Lewis. Oliver has seen very little field time due to injuries.

On the other side behind Terrell, Clemson must dip into the walk-on roster, as Terrell, Lewis, and Oliver are the only scholarship players available (Jaedyn Lukus is injured, Sheridan Jones opted out, and Toriano Pride transferred to Missouri).

Austin Randall, the brother of Adam Randall who transferred to Clemson as a walk-on to play his final season alongside his brother, is the next man up for the Tigers at cornerback, though we have heard that others, such as Hamp Greene, are getting reps in practice in case they are needed.

Out: Andrew Mukuba – Mukuba entered the portal and will be playing for Texas next season.

In: Khalil Barnes – Let’s just say out loud what most of us are thinking: Mukuba was good, but Barnes is better and will continue to get better.

Other things to note for the defense:

  • The Tigers will continue the three-headed monster at defensive end with Xavier Thomas, Justin Mascoll, and Parker.
  • Kylon Griffin is the backup at all three safety positions: strong, free, and nickel. Not hard to imagine that he slides into free safety in 2024 with RJ Mickens at strong and Barnes at nickel.

As most fans, I prefer to see teams play their bowl games as close to full strength as possible, but I am excited to see what this lineup can accomplish.