Clemson Culture Will be Tested In New Way Come Postseason

The Clemson culture will be put to a different kind of test this postseason.

Although this is something that the Tigers haven’t had happen in the past, missing the College Football Playoff could likely result in some players opting out and preparing for the NFL combine and draft.

Now before you go knocking them, keep in mind that these players potentially have millions of reasons not to risk injury in a mostly meaningless bowl game. Football is a violent sport. Staying healthy isn’t always easy. Just ask Dabo Swinney. Playing in the NFL is a lifelong dream for most of these players, and for some it will be realized. With that in mind let’s discuss the players on this year’s roster with the most draft potential, whom could choose to opt out of the bowl game this year.

1) Justyn Ross: This guy was an absolute monster in the 2018 season. He made the biggest splash a freshman wide receiver has ever made in Clemson history by just absolutely smoking the Notre Dame and Alabama secondary. 2019 was a good season as well, but he missed the entire 2020 season due to a congenital issue he was born with. His stats aren’t quite as good this season, although that is likely due to offensive line and quarterback regression. Look for a healthy Ross to light it up at the combine and have an excellent chance to secure a first or second round NFL draft selection.

2) Andrew Booth Jr: Booth exploded onto the scene last year on national television when he made that magnificent one handed interception. They say DBs can’t catch. Well apparently Booth didn’t get the memo. His pass defense has excelled over the course of the season but his real strength is his ability to make bone crushing tackles in the open field. This is one corner who isn’t afraid of physicality and will punish any ball carrier who comes in his direction. He will be richly rewarded for this by hearing his name called early in the NFL draft.

3) Tyler Davis: You need look no further than the last two seasons to see how much the Clemson run defense missed Tyler Davis when he wasn’t on the field. This is a bad dude and clogs a ton of space in the middle of the field. He started on the defensive line as a freshman for a reason. Last year, he was the only defensive lineman listed on the initial depth chart without an “or” by his name. He is a space eater that is extremely difficult to block and consistently pushes opposing linemen backwards. The only negative is that he does have an injury history, but he recovers quickly. He could very well hear his name called early on draft day.

4) Xavier Thomas: Thomas broke onto the scene in his freshman year with three and a half sacks, none more memorable than the game winner against Syracuse. I’m sure the quarterback still has nightmares after that hit. His sophomore season he struggled playing in the 3-man front, registering just 1.2 sacks, while playing in 12 games. Last year he could not stay healthy, much that related to issues surrounding him having Covid but was able to match his freshman year’s sack total with 3.5, even with limited playing time. This year he has 4.5 sacks with at least four games yet to be played. The NFL is always in need of elite pass rushers, and one lucky team will secure one in the upcoming NFL draft with Xavier Thomas.

5) Jordan McFadden: The offensive line has been a mess this year at Clemson. Everyone knows that. That said, Jordan McFadden has been the one constant, reliable player on the offensive line. He protects DJ Uiagalelei’s blind side for a reason. While the other linemen have been whipped more than a few times this season, McFadden has not and is the best offensive lineman by far that the Tigers have to offer at the moment. He could possibly hear his name called at some point during the draft.

Other notable players that could have a chance to be drafted include: KJ Henry (DE), Sheridan Jones (CB), Frank Ladson (WR), Joseph Ngata (WR), James Skalski (LB), Baylon Spector (LB), Braden Galloway (TE), Matt Bockhorst (OL), Nolan Turner (S), and Lannden Zanders (S).

Clearly, there is no reason to think that anywhere near all these players will opt out, it is reasonable to assume that there may a few, who have a high draft ceiling, that may do so in order to remain healthy. After all, realizing a life long dream and securing financial stability for your family is much more important than a bowl game. Also, it gives the younger players an opportunity to step up and start their next chapter as well.

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