Clemson is set to open spring practice on Monday, with the Tigers looking to begin its trek back to the College Football Playoff after missing out in each of the past two seasons.
Today we take a look at some of the biggest question marks facing this Clemson program.
The Garrett Riley Offense: For the first time since the hiring of Chad Morris ahead of the 2011 season, Dabo Swinney has gone outside of his program for a coach to run his offense. Riley brings his own very unique version of the Air Raid offense, but don’t get to caught up in the term.
This won’t be the kind of offense that slings the ball all over the field regardless of down and distance. Riley believes in running the ball first and foremost. He has also shown that he is capable of adjusting his scheme to fit his personnel, so it will be interesting to follow exactly how things take shape over the next few weeks.
Who Plays Left Tackle: With Jordan McFadden now gone, someone has to step up and protect Cade Klubnik’s blindside. It’s possible Blake Miller moves over from right tackle, but that might all depend on where Tristan Leigh is in his development. The former 5-star has patiently waited his turn and now might be the redshirt sophomore’s time. Either way, Leigh and Miller are your top two candidates.
Defensive End Depth: This is the position that Clemson could have really benefitted from bringing someone in from the portal. However, seeing as there is no open scholarships available, it just was not an option prior to spring.
Xavier Thomas returning for one final season was huge, but he has to stay healthy. The former 5-star has been plagued with some of the worst luck over the past three seasons and just has not been able to stay on the field. Justin Mascoll is also back, so those are your two likely starters.
It’s behind those two where things start to get dicey. Greg Williams, Cade Denhoff and Zaire Patterson are the backups and none have played very much at all. Due to that fact alone, this has to be viewed as one of the biggest weaknesses entering spring. It’s also why you might see true freshmen Peter Woods and Tomarrion Parker getting early opportunities.
New Crop of Wideouts: Wide receiver production has no doubt dropped off in recent seasons. Clemson has lacked from having that one guy who can take over a game when need be. Can Adam Randall be that guy?
After tearing his ACL late last spring, Randall didn’t have the impact as a freshman that most were expecting. Almost one year removed from that injury, Randall should be ready in 2023.
Which freshmen will see the field? Noble Johnson is an early enrollee, with many suggesting he was very underrated as a high school recruit. Ronan Hanafin gives the room another big body and is also a guy that can run. Tyler Williams is another intriguing player, twitchy and fast.
We already know what Clemson has in Antonio Williams. He just needs to take that next step, and he should. One of the biggest questions is can Beaux Collins stay healthy and evolve into what everyone envisioned when he was coming out of high school.
Wes Goodwin’s Second Season Leading the Defense: It’s never easy replacing a legend and that is exactly what Goodwin has to do after taking over for Brent Venables. Goodwin was more than serviceable in his first season but there were some bumps in the road, especially early in the season.
Expect the defense to be much improved in year number two. Goodwin has now had an entire offseason to self scout and see where he needs to be better.
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