Clemson Fall Camp: 5 Things to Watch For

The Clemson Tigers are set to begin fall camp on Friday and will enter the 2023 season as the preseason favorite to win the ACC for the seventh time in eight years.

Coming off back-to-back three loss seasons, Dabo Swinney’s team will be looking to head back to the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2020. The Tigers will also be looking to win 10 or more games for the 13th consecutive season.

5 Things to Watch For

New and Improved Offense: Swinney made a major move in the offseason, dismissing Brandon Streeter after just one season. He brought in Garrett Riley to breathe some life into a Tigers’ offense that had become fairly stale over the past couple of seasons. Much of the spring was spent installing the new system, and while fans got a glimpse of it in the spring game, it was only just a small taste.

Riley will be charged with improving a passing attack that ranked No. 66 in the nation, averaging just 232 yards per game last season. He will also be tasked with helping develop sophomore quarterback Cade Klubnik, who enters his first season as the fulltime starter. The former 5-star brings the kind of dual-threat ability to the table that should help propel the offense back into one of the best in the conference, and possibly one of the best in the nation.

Wide Receiver Health: Dynamic playmakers at wideout were a staple of the Clemson offense during the run of six consecutive playoff appearances. The Tigers were so good at receiver that they earned the moniker of ‘Wide Receiver U.’ The past couple of seasons, though, the production at the position has fallen off and fallen off dramatically. Part of that has been due to the amount of injuries the Tigers have sustained at the position.

Beaux Collins and Adam Randall both missed the spring recovering from injuries suffered last season. While Collins was able to participate in some of the non-contact drills, both players missed a lot of reps in the new system. Just having them back on the field gives the offense a much-needed shot in the arm. The key will be keeping both healthy.

While Brannon Spector is now the elder statesmen in the room and Antonio Williams should once again be a key contributor, there isn’t much experience behind those guys. Redshirt freshman Cole Turner showed some flashes in limited action last season, and there are some talented freshmen in Noble Johnson, Ronan Hanafin and Tyler Brown, but there just isn’t a ton of experience.

The Tigers would also benefit from having a fully healthy Troy Stellato. The redshirt sophomore has struggled to get on the field in his first two seasons. Stellato possesses the kind of speed the Tigers have lacked out wide at times over the past two years. However, after suffering multiple injuries, it’s fair to question if that speed has been impacted.

Depth At LB: Jeremiah Trotter Jr. and Barrett Carter give Clemson one of the best duos of inside linebackers in the country. However, what happens if one of those guys go down with an injury? Especially if that guy is Trotter.

T.J. Dudley’s dismissal was a major blow to the Tigers depth at MIKE. That means redshirt freshman Kobe McLoud and true freshman Dee Crayton may have to grow up in a hurry. Wade Woodaz, who is expected to start at SAM, also repped some inside during the spring. While we know who the starting backers are, it will be interesting to see how the reps are divvied up behind those guys throughout camp.

Improving the Weak Link On Defense: Clemson ranked No. 76 in pass defense last season, allowing 231 yards per game. There were times when the Tigers just got torched on the backend. It’s something Swinney specifically mentioned as an area that must improve.

Fortunately, a ton of experience returns in the secondary. Nate Wiggins and Sheridan Jones give the Tigers two veteran corners. Toriano Pride now has a year of experience under his belt and Jeadyn Lukus should finally be fully healthy.

There is even more experience back at safety with both RJ Mickens and Jalyn Phillips choosing to return for another season. After spending some time at corner last season, Andrew Mukuba will now be back exclusively at safety. More importantly, he is also fully healthy after dealing with multiple injuries a season ago. Sherrod Covil Jr is another guy that now has a season under his belt. And don’t forget freshman Khalil Barnes, who the staff raved about during the spring.

Special Teams: The kicking game is a big question mark as camp begins. Replacing B.T. Potter will not be easy. Can redshirt freshman Robert Gunn find the consistency needed to be the fulltime placekicker? He, no doubt, has the leg.

After winning the job at punter last season, can Aiden Swanson hold off redshirt freshman Jack Smith? Swanson was up and down at times in 2022. Smith is another guy with a big leg, but like Gunn, still needs to be more consistent.

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