Every year Clemson loses key contributors to the NFL draft and graduation. Whether it be Deshaun Watson, Hunter Renfrow, or last year’s defensive leader Isaiah Simmons, losing players can be tough, but it also provides an opportunity for the freshmen to come in and climb up the depth chart. This year, it appears that multiple freshmen will be playing a major role in competing for Clemson’s fourth national championship. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the new kids on the block.
Bryan Bresee, Defensive Tackle
Out of Damascus High School in Maryland, Bresee is widely regarded as the top recruit in the 2020 class and was even named Fox Sports’ top impact freshman for this season. The five-star recruit has a unique combination of quickness and brute strength that allows him to get off the line and push the pocket back.
Although officially listed as a defensive tackle, Head Coach Dabo Swinney spoke to his versatility and that Bresee could “play special teams, play three-technique, play nose, could probably get by playing some end if we had to.” With junior defensive end Xavier Thomas being out this season due to his recovery from COVID-19, fans should expect Bresee to make an immediate impact on the field and line up anywhere along the defensive line.
D.J. Uiagalelei, Quarterback
Obviously Trevor Lawrence is going to be the starter this season, but it can never hurt to have the second-best recruit in the country as your backup quarterback. Uiagalelei is as good as quarterback recruits come, and already had the attention of Swinney back in the spring.
Swinney spoke highly of the 6’5 freshman and said, “To see a guy that big, he sometimes makes Trevor, and we all know what type of arm Trevor has, and sometimes he makes Trevor just kind of look normal with his ability to just rip that football.” Uiagalelei may not have the same immediate impact as other freshmen, but his role for the team, both short and long term, is critical. Hopefully, we will not need to see him play until next season, but if for some reason Lawrence is unable to play, it appears Clemson has yet another top-tier quarterback on the roster.
E.J. Williams, Wide Receiver
Coming out of Alabama, Williams looks to fill the void of the departed Tee Higgins and the injured Justyn Ross, who attended the same high school as Williams. As a senior in high school, he recorded 44 receptions for 739 yards and 11 touchdowns, allowing him to secure a spot on the first-team all-region team.
Although those numbers are not as high as other receiver recruits, Wide Receivers Coach Tyler Grisham spoke highly of his talent and said, “He's long, he's tall, he's got good speed, good quickness, great hands.” As the season progresses, look for Williams to use those athletic traits more and more as he may move up the depth chart quickly.
Myles Murphy, Defensive End
Ranked as the number three recruit in the country by ESPN, Murphy should develop into a wrecking ball on the defensive line. Similar to Bresee, Murphy’s athleticism and power will allow him to bully many opposing offensive linemen. Despite being listed at 275lbs, his first-step is unbelievably quick and the coaching staff has noticed.
Back in the spring, Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables said that Murphy, “Comes with really good fundamentals, knows how to play low and with leverage, very explosive, he's long. He's not only got good linear speed but good lateral movement and quickness and he sees things fast.” With both Bresee and Murphy locked in for the next three or four seasons, Clemson’s reputation of having great defensive lines is going nowhere.
Trenton Simpson, Linebacker
When a team loses a defensive playmaker like Simmons, it can be a challenge to fill that void. However, Simpson could become as good as Simmons was if he is given the opportunity. Likely lining up at strong side linebacker for the Tigers, the five-star recruit only played linebacker for one year in high school, but his experience as a running back in high school should allow him to quickly pick up opposing offenses’ schemes. Once the season starts, look for No. 22 to be flying around the field making play after play.