Today marks the beginning of fall camp for Clemson football.
After the way the season ended, with the Tigers getting blown out by Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, the team entered the spring very motivated. Veterans like James Skalski and Matt Bockhorst appeared to have huge chips on their shoulders, with both talking about proving any doubters wrong in 2021.
With fall camp kicking off this afternoon in Clemson, here are five players to keep an eye on as the fall progresses.
Justyn Ross: It’s been more than a full year since Ross has taken a hit. After missing all of 2020 recovering from neck surgery, Ross is expected to be back in 2021, despite not being quite yet fully cleared. Ross weighed in at 202 pounds yesterday, almost ten pounds lighter than he was in 2019. Could that lead to him being even faster? Either way, all eyes will be on the senior receiver all fall. Especially after he takes that first hit. This team needs Ross, and needs him in a big way.
Hunter Rayburn: The new starting center, which is one of the most important positions on the field. The offensive line play was not what most expected it to be last year, especially on the interior. The ground game really suffered, with running lanes being hard to come by. Rushing numbers were down across the board. With Travis Etienne off to the NFL, improving the running game is a must and that starts with the offensive line. And that starts with Rayburn. Not to mention being responsible for ensuring the correct protections are called in the passing game.
Hunter Helms: One of the most talked about things over the offseason was the quarterback depth. The injury to Taisun Phomachanh has put the spotlight directly on Helms, a walk on. The redshirt freshman is the guy if something were to happen to D.J. Uiagalelei. How he continues to develop over the next few weeks could play a large role in Clemson’s success.
Xavier Thomas: How many people even expected XT to be at Clemson for a fourth season? Probably not very many. The former 5-star pass rusher has all of the potential in the world, but to date, just hasn’t had the success many envisioned. At 263 pounds, Thomas is in the best shape of his career and by all accounts, he is extremely motivated. If the real XT shows up, watch out. This is his money year, so to speak. It’s now or never and this team needs it to be now.
Trenton Simpson: Simpson is set to take over for Mike Jones Jr, who transferred to LSU after last season. Simpson’s play as a freshman probably had a lot to do with that decision to transfer. The further we got into the season, the more snaps Simpson played, while excelling at making plays behind the line of scrimmage. Up to 235 pounds, the sophomore linebacker has added the necessary bulk needed to take the pounding of a full season. With a years experience under his belt, expect Simpson to take a big jump in 2021 and become one of the primary playmakers on this defense. If his pass coverage has improved, the sky is the limit.
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