For the second year in a row, theClemson Tigers finished in the top five in 247Sports team composite recruiting rankings. With three consensus five-stars and 14 four-star signees, there is as much incoming talent capable of making an immediate impact as exists at just about any program in America.
But Clemson is not any program. The Tiger defense returns almost intact, and there are elite athletes with experience on offense as well. Still, head coach Dabo Swinney is not shy about giving a freshman an opportunity if that is what is best for the team.
Here are five newcomers that should get a chance in 2021.
Will Shipley, RB
After rushing and receiving for 2,648 yards and 38 touchdowns as a junior, Shipley found himself as one of the most coveted high school recruits in America. He can be both shifty and powerful when he needs to be while also possessing sub-4.5 speed. Travis Etienne's departure leaves a huge void in the backfield, one that Shipley will have a hand in filling.
Tristan Leigh, OT
The Tigers bring back three of their five starting offensive linemen, and Walker Parks is expected to slide into Jackson Carman's now-vacant left tackle spot. But there are openings on the two-deep that Leigh could claim. His chance to play will hinge upon the amount of size he can add before he steps on campus and how well he picks up the offense once he arrives. His physical tools and his long-range potential, though, are unquestioned. Ryan Linthicum at center is another new offensive lineman to keep an eye on.
DeMonte Capehart, DT
The redshirt freshman played in four games this past fall but is expected to have a much bigger role this coming season. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables likes to rotate bodies, especially in the front seven, and with Nyles Pinckney and Jordan Williams exiting as graduate transfers, depth is needed behind Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis. Capehart, a top-50 national recruit in 2020, had two tackles for lost yardage versus The Citadel last year.
Jeremiah Trotter Jr., LB
Even with Mike Jones Jr. heading off to LSU, the Tigers have good numbers at linebacker. That being said, Trotter may be too good to keep off the field. The son of the former Philadelphia Eagle great is now on campus and ready to compete. That may give him a leg up on fellow top linebacker recruit, Barrett Carter, who is listed on the roster as a safety.
Beaux Collins, WR
Though Amari Rodgers and Cornell Powell will no longer be making grabs for Clemson, the team is hardly bereft of talent at the receiver position. But considering the injuries that have hampered Justyn Ross, Frank Ladson, and Joseph Ngata, a freshman could earn some run out wide. Collins not only has top-100 ability, he also has a rapport with D.J. Uiagalelei, who was his quarterback at St. John Bosco (Calif.) High School in 2019.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.