There are few teams that have hit on as many players as Clemson in the last seven years, especially when it comes to true freshmen that can make an immediate impact.
Think about it. DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Deshaun Watson, Artavis Scott, Deon Cain, Mitch Hyatt, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence, they all made an impact on the football field as true freshmen.
It is no coincidence the fortunes of the Clemson football program turned around and became an elite program because of every single one of the eight players mentioned above. Will there be any true freshmen in 2017 that could make an impact?
“When you start talking about those things, you have to look at need,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Sometimes you have guys that make an impact simply out of need because you are maybe thin at a spot or something like that.
“Then the next thing might be just because of where the guys are physically. Sometimes guys come in that are just physically ready. If they can grasp on mentally, then they have a good opportunity.”
The position of need for Clemson is at running back where the Tigers signed Travis Etienne out of Jennings, La. The four-star running back is also physically ready, too. He stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 210 pounds.
“Whether he is ready or not, he better get ready because there is a big need. Sometimes that is the way it is,” Swinney said.
Etienne was Clemson’s last commitment in the 2017 class. He ranks 114th overall by ESPN in the class and is rated as the 13th best running back.
As for who might be ready to make an impact from a physical standpoint, Swinney says wide receivers Tee Higgins (6-4, 190) and Amari Rodgers (5-10, 195) are ready.
“You look at the physical aspect of it. You look at a guy like Tee Higgins,” Swinney said. “Mike Williams just walked out the door and here is a 6-5 guy that we had in camp. We have good working knowledge of his skill set.
“The same thing with Amari, Artavis is going out and Amari is a strong, tough physical young guy. Can they grasp it mentally? We will see. Those two guys have a chance to jump in there.”
Obviously, one of the two quarterbacks signed—Hunter Johnson or Chase Brice—will get in the mix, too. Though Swinney admits he doesn’t know if both will be able to play.
“Our thing is, and we tell them all, come in and prepare to be the guy,” the Clemson coach said. “If you do not come in here prepared to be the starter and win the job then you are cheating yourself and you are cheating the team. That’s how we challenge all of these guys.”
On the defensive side, Swinney feels Jordan Williams and Justin Foster could be guys that could make a possible impact on the defensive line, as well as LeAnthony Williams and A.J. Ferrell in the secondary because of their size and their length.
“We have to go and evaluate all that stuff and see how it plays out,” Swinney said. “All of them have a chance to make an impact, all 14 of them. We just have to see how it plays out.”
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