A look at Clemson's season of massive attrition

A look at Clemson's season of massive attrition

Football

A look at Clemson's season of massive attrition

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Clemson lost reserve offensive linemen John Williams and Tayquon Johnson to season-ending injuries before the season started. Little did the Tigers know then it was a sign of things to come.

The list of significant injuries has grown almost by the week for Clemson, which has lost 14 scholarship players to either season-ending injuries or the transfer portal through seven games. By the time the final second ticked away on the Tigers’ 27-17 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday, the number of unavailable scholarship players had grown to 18.

Clemson has started 43 different players in seven games. In 12 games last season, the Tigers started 40.

“I’ve never been through a season like this with the type of injuries that we’ve had,” Swinney said.

Clemson (4-3, 3-2 ACC) is hopeful it will get some of the players who aren’t done for the season back for Saturday’s game against Florida State (3-4, 2-2), but more players have been added to the group that won’t be returning this season. Offensive lineman Matt Bockhorst (torn ACL) and defensive end Justin Foster (back) are the latest to join that club, and tight end Braden Galloway (separated) is likely done for the season as well.

“Maybe a slight chance (he returns),” Swinney said, “but most likely he’s out.”

More than 25 scholarship players have missed at least one game because of an injury while COVID-19 protocols have sidelined others. Offensive lineman Hunter Rayburn has been held out of the last two games because of the latter while Clemson’s leading receiver, Joseph Ngata, missed the Pitt game.

Ngata’s absence left the Tigers without three of their starting receivers against Pitt. Frank Ladson (groin surgery) won’t be returning this season, though Swinney expressed optimism about Ngata and E.J. Williams (knee) rejoining the fold for this week’s game.

Meanwhile, the loss of Bockhorst means Clemson will have to go with a fifth different starting combination along the offensive line against the Seminoles.  Swinney said Bockhorst, who’s already undergone multiple knee surgeries, likely won’t return for a sixth year next season.

“I think he’s going to work on his abs, drop some weight and get ready for what comes next in life,” Swinney said. “I think that’s going to be his focus.”

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