Redshirt freshman Tanner Muse feels like he opened the door of opportunity during spring practice prior to the 2016 season, and after making an impact for the Tigers on special teams, he hopes to break down that door as a sophomore next year.
The safety from Belmont, N.C., served Clemson well on several special-team units this season while also seeing some action at safety in a reserve capacity and showcasing his potential.
Muse blocked a punt in the national championship game against Alabama, recorded nine tackles on special teams, logged 22 tackles in 99 snaps at safety and returned an interception for a touchdown against Syracuse.
The former first-team all-state defender and two-sport athlete at South Point High School is expected to compete with rising sophomore K’Von Wallace and redshirt freshman Isaiah Simmons in the spring for the starting safety role vacated by all-ACC performer Jadar Johnson.
“I am excited. I love spring ball,” Muse told The Clemson Insider at Media Day before the national title game in Tampa, Fla. “That’s where I kind of made my little rise, sticking my head through the door a little bit last year. So, I’m excited to try to break the door down this year.”
In the first quarter of the national title game, Muse laid out and extended full reach to get his hands on a punt from Alabama’s JK Scott. With Alabama ahead 7-0 at the time, the block prevented the Crimson Tide from flipping field position and gave Clemson’s offense good starting field position, though the Tigers couldn’t take advantage.
Muse’s flashiest highlight, though, came in Clemson’s 54-0 win over Syracuse in Death Valley on Nov. 5, when he fielded a deflected pass and raced 64 yards into the end zone for a pick-six.
Muse said the moment is one he won’t forget.
“I kept the sleeve I had that game, and the gloves,” he said. “I called my mom after the game. She was crying. So, it was kind of like a peak, football wise, just being able to do what I did in front of all those people in Death Valley.”
After tallying 150 tackles and four interceptions as a senior in high school, Muse redshirted the 2015 season at Clemson before making his mark in 2016.
Muse feels the in-game reps on special teams and defense helped his knowledge of playing football at the collegiate level. Muse added that Clemson’s “Power Hour” training program led by strength and conditioning director Joey Batson helped him develop physically as a redshirt freshman a year ago.
“Redshirting last year, I didn’t really get to do much with the defensive side,” Muse said, “but this year I’ve learned a whole lot and I think it’s prepared me for getting ready for next season and spring ball to be able to make a claim for myself.”
Muse entered the year hoping to prove to the coaching staff that he was dedicated to being a reliable special teams contributor first. His hard work paid off with the big plays, and the coaches have taken notice of his efforts.
“They say I’m doing a lot good, just from being so committed on special teams,” Muse said. “They like that, and they said there’s going to be an opportunity next year, so we’ll see how that works out.”