99 Things – #29 Clemson’s Comeback


Many fans look back on Clemson’s 2022 season and believe it was the start of their downfall. The Tigers struggled at times but still finished the season with a 10-3 record. Personally I am not betting against Dabo Swinney right now. He continues to recruit at a high level and bring in top end talent. He was able to retain his entire roster with no player entering the transfer portal during or after the spring semester. Clemson has talent on both sides of the ball. The Tigers have been picked as the preseason favorite in the ACC once again with the expectations of making the College Football Playoff. On paper this roster may not look as scary as some of Swinney’s previous teams but make no mistake, they are not afraid of school on their schedule. Today’s 99 Things is centered around the Clemson Tiger and their roster.

The Tigers are replacing both their offensive and defensive coordinator this season. Former offensive coordinator, Tony Elliott, became the head coach at Virginia while defensive coordinator, Brent Venables, took the job at Oklahoma. Clemson rarely sees coaches leave the program so the turnover is noteworthy. Dabo made internal hires for both positions. Wes Goodwin was promoted to defensive coordinator while Brandon Streeter became the offensive coordinator. Both coaches have been around Swinney and the Clemson program for more than a decade so they understand the expectations which come with the position.

One of the biggest questions for Clemson is the quarterback position. Last season DJ Uiagalelei struggled for a majority of the season. Uiagalelei threw for more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (9) last season. He completed just 55.6% of his passes and only topped 200 passing yards in four games last season. Uiagalelei was benched in favor of Taisun Phommachanh at one point in the year. Phommachanh has since transferred out of the program but a new challenger awaits. Cade Klubnik is a former five star prospect from Texas. 247Sports ranked him as the number one quarterback in the country and the number six prospect overall. Uiagalelei is likely on a short leash to start the season provided Klubnik continues to make strides in practice.

The most exciting player on the offense is Will Shipley. Shipley was a true freshman last season and led the team in rushing yards. He only played in 10 games due to injuries but he showed his potential. Shipley finished the season with 739 rushing yards, 119 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. He also returned 14 kicks and averaged 27.1 yards per return. The sophomore running back is going to be an anchor on the offense due to his playmaking ability. New coordinators have a tendency to rely on established running backs especially when they have an inconsistent quarterback.

The wide receiver room will be led by Beaux Collins, Joseph Ngata and Decari Collins. Beaux Collins stepped up as a freshman to finish third on the team in receptions and receiving yards. The former four star receiver has potential to become to the top target for Uiagalelei due to his ability to create separation. Ngata has impressive speed which helps take the top off the defense. He possesses big play ability which helps the offense move the chains much faster than others. Decari Collins only played in four games last season but was impressive in his few opportunities. Decari Collins finished fourth on the team in receiving yards with 221 yards. Tight end Davis Allen will also be a factor in the passing attack. Allen became a reliable target for Clemson last season finishing with 28 receptions for 208 yards and three touchdowns.

The defense is all about the defensive line. We already previewed the defensive line here where you can read much more. Clemson will once again have one of the best units in the entire country. The line is led by Myles Murphy and Bryan Breese. Murphy led the team with 14.5 tackles for loss and 8.0 sacks. Breese was limited due to injuries last season but was a Freshman All-American in 2020. The defensive line was hampered with injuries last year but proved to be a deep unit. If they can stay healthy in 2022, this should be the heart and soul of the entire team.

Clemson’s defense finished eighth in the country in total yards. The linebackers and secondary return multiple players which should allow them to be just as good if not better. Trenton Simpson has an incredible chance to be an All-American this season. Simpson finished last season with 65 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. His partner is Barrett Carter who is one of the most athletic linebackers in the ACC. Carter spent time behind former linebackers James Skalski and Baylon Spector learning the sytems. The secondary is the biggest question on the defense after loosing Andrew Booth Jr, Nolan Turner and Mario Goodrich. RJ Mickens is one of the candidates to lead the secondary after intercepting two passes last season.

Clemson’s non-conference schedule is headline with a trip to South Bend where they will face Notre Dame on November 5th. They will also face Furman, Louisiana Tech and South Carolina. Most of Clemson’s toughest ACC games are at home. Miami, NC State, Syracuse and Louisville will all be played at Death Valley. The Tigers will travel to face Wake Forest, Florida State, Boston College and Georgia Tech. The schedule sets up a potential College Football Playoff run for the Tigers. Dabo’s team has a few remaining questions which need answered before the start of the season but I have no doubt they will be ready. After a year hiatus, can Clemson become a national title contender once again?

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