With Clemson’s 2020 season ending abruptly this past Friday in the Sugar Bowl, the look ahead to the 2021 season has already begun.
The mid-year freshmen enrollees moved into Clemson on Sunday, which officially begins to shape what next year’s roster could potentially look like.
The next 10 to 11 days will also go a long way into shaping the roster. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney will begin his exit interviews in earnest during this time as he and a few of his players discuss what’s next in their future at Clemson.
As always at this time of year, players who are draft eligible will decide whether they will forgo their senior year and enter their name into the NFL Draft pool or return to school for one more season. There are also those who might want to transfer, which could be more than usual with the NCAA allowing a blanket waiver for all student-athletes.
Then there are the current seniors. Normally their careers would be complete, but with the NCAA extending an extra year of eligibility for all athletes for the 2020-’21 academic year, they now have the option to return to school for one more season.
With Clemson starting classes this week and with draft eligible players having to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft by Jan. 15, most of these decisions should be made in the next 10 to 11 days.
Some of the players expected to have tough decisions to make are left tackle Jackson Carman, quarterback Taisun Phommachanh, defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney, defensive tackle Jordan Williams, linebacker James Skalski, safety Nolan Turner, cornerback Mario Goodrich and cornerback Derion Kendrick to name a few.
There are likely others that were not mentioned that could be waiting to see what their teammates do before they make their decisions.
One player who will play a big role in shaping next season for the Tigers is wide receiver Justyn Ross. The junior missed the entire 2020 season after having surgery on his spin last June. His rehabilitation has gone well.
Ross flew to Pittsburgh on Dec. 8 to get an update on where he is at in his recovery. His visit with Dr. David Okonkwo, his neurosurgeon, was a positive one according to Swinney.
The Clemson wide receiver is still waiting on couple of pieces of information before he can be cleared to play again.
“It was a very positive trip,” Swinney said. “Basically, where he is right now, there are two big boxes that have to be checked for them to say, ‘Alright! Go get it!’ But I think they were very pleased with what they saw.”
Ross’ future at Clemson could be decided sometime in the next few weeks. Or at least, according to Swinney, that is when Ross possibly could be meeting with Dr. Okonkwo to get another update on his progress.
After that meeting, Ross will make his decision whether he returns to Clemson for another season or declares himself eligible for the NFL Draft.