More than a dozen redshirt or true freshmen made appearances on the Week 1 depth chart for the Clemson Tigers, who open against the Duke Blue Devils at 8 p.m. on Sept. 4 at Wallace Wade Stadium.
The Tigers have plenty of expected places field, like Cade Klubnik at starting quarterback, but there were also a few surprises.
Here’s a breakdown of the first depth chart of the 2023 season:
- Will Shipley and Phil Mafah are listed as “or” at first-team running back. The rushing duo is one of the best returning units in the nation and should see a lot of work regardless of who runs out there first.
- The starting receivers are Beaux Collins, Antonio Williams, and either Adam Randall or Cole Turner, which is a little bit of a surprise. Randall was running with the first team during media practice windows.
- Freshman Tyler Brown is listed as No. 2 behind Williams in the slot. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said last week that Brown had taken that role and was “pushing” the sophomore Wiliams, the Tigers’ leading returning pass-catcher.
- Brannon Spector “or” Troy Stellato, who missed most of fall camp, are listed behind Collins.
- Hunter Helms, who has been dealing with a foot injury this month, is listed as the backup QB, ahead of Paul Tyson. Swinney had hoped Helms would be healthy for the opener.
- Tristan Leigh “or” Collin Sadler are the starting left tackles. Leigh was presumed to be the first man up in replacing the graduated Jordan McFadden, but Swinney has really been talking Sadler, a redshirt freshman, up in recent weeks.
- Mitchell Mays is lsted as the backup to Blake Miller at right tackle and Walker Parks at right guard. Mays filled in at guard late last year when Marcus Tate went down with an injury.
- Xavier Thomas and Justin Mascoll are listed as the starting defensive ends, with T.J. Parker and Cade Denhoff, respectively, backing them up. Swinney said this month that the freshman Parker is “right there” with the two starters.
- Freshman phenom Peter Woods is listed as an “or” at both tackle spots, meaning he could theoretically start over veterans Ruke Orhorhoro or Tyler Davis. It’s hard to believe that will happen in Week 1, but it won’t take long for the heralded Woods to get on the field next Monday.
- The starting linebackers – Barrett Carter, Jeremiah Trotter Jr., and Wade Woodaz – are as expected. True freshmen Jamal Anderson and Dee Crayton and redshirt freshman Kobe McCloud are listed as the backups. That’s a lot of youth in the two- and three-deep.
- Safety Andrew Mukuba is listed as the nickelback if the Tigers show a more 4-2-5 look, which could be Wes Goodwin’s primary choice to start the season. Mukuba has shined in Year 3 and appears fully healthy, something he wasn’t last year.
- Backing up Mukuba is true freshman Khalil Barnes, who several Tigers have been talking up since he arrived in the spring. It won’t take long for Barnes to get his first reps, and he’s a candidate to play some SAM linebacker as well.
- Safeties R.J. Mickens and Jayln Phillips are the other starters while Nate Wiggins and Sheridan Jones are at the corners. Nothing is unexpected there, but freshmen Kylon Griffin and Avion Terrell both make the opening depth chart.
- Robert Gunn II won the starting kicker job in fall camp and is a no-surprise starter for Week 1. He beat out backup Quinn Castner.
- Based on the depth chart, Aidan Swanson won the job at punter over Jack Smith, although Swinney said early in fall camp that the battle could last a few weeks into the regular season.
- Williams and Brown are listed as punt returners while Shipley and Brown on handling kick return duties.
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