Although last season ended on a sour note for Clemson, there is a lot to look forward to in the coming year. Clemson is set to retain 10 of 11 starters on defense, and they have a star studded quarterback, D.J. Uiagalelei, who looks like he’ll be able to pick up where Trevor Lawerence left off. On top of that, Clemson is not just retooling but reloading its depth and star power through their top five 2021 recruiting class. Clemson has three 5 stars, fourteen 4 stars, and two 3 stars. Although we know what to expect from Uiagalelei and the returning players, let’s take a deeper look at the 2021 recruiting class and which players may have a big impact from day one.
The first player in this year’s recruiting class who will be able to have an instant impact is outside linebacker Barrett Carter from Suwanee, GA. At one point, Clemson was supposed to return all 11 starting defensive players, but starting linebacker, Mike Jones Jr., surprisingly entered the transfer portal leaving room to compete. Although there are veteran players who are able to take over as the starters, Carter can still expect to see the field often due to his position versatility. Carter is able to play either as a linebacker or a safety. In high school, Carter accumulated 162 total tackles, 27 tackles for loss, 18 sacks and 2 interceptions while earning Defensive High School National Player of the Year honors from Maxwell Football Club. Make sure to keep an eye out for Carter as he hopes to help solidify Clemson’s young, elite defense.
The next player from Clemson’s recruiting class who could see the field early is Will Shipley from Matthews, NC. Shipley is a 5-star running back who committed to Clemson early-on in the commitment process (May 5, 2020). With Travis Etienne departing to the NFL Draft and Demarkus Bowman transferring to Florida midseason, Shipley will make a convincing argument as to why he should see the field on day one. Shipley has blistering speed (4.46 second 40 yard), agility (4.21 second shuttle) and a pro-size body (198 pounds). While at Weddington High School, Shipley had 4,173 rushing yards, 1,411 receiving yards and 80 touchdowns in three years. Although senior running back Lyn-J Dixon looks poised to take over as the starting running back, Shipley’s impressive stats and receiving skills will get him on the field early.
Charles Power, National Writer for 247 Sports, made this statement about Shipley’s pass catching ability, “One of the more skilled pass catchers among backs in the 2021 cycle and is a threat as a receiver out of the backfield.”
Another player to keep an eye on is four-star wide receiver, Beaux Collins. Collins is from Bellflower, CA and attended St. John Bosco High School. Collins played two seasons with current Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei at St. John Bosco. Uiagalelei and Collins had a connection like no other for the two seasons they were together. During the 2019 season, Collins had 1,008 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns as he helped lead St. John Bosco to the State Finals. Despite Collins being a true freshman, he could have an immediate impact due to his phenomenal connection with Uiagalelei and his height, 6-feet-3-inches. Unfortunately for him, the Tigers could be poised to have the best receiving core of all time.
During an interview on Gameball Podcast, ACC Network Analyst, Eric Mac Lain said, “This might be the best wide receiver room that Clemson has ever had.”
One final player in the 2021 class who could see the field day one is 5-star offensive linemen Tristan Leigh from Fairfax, VA. With the departure of Jackson Carman, there is a gaping hole at the offensive tackle position. Although there are players with more experience who can fill the gap like Walker Parks, Leigh is a can’t miss player due to his pure size and weight, 6-feet-5-inches and 270 pounds. If an issue arises where another lineman gets injured or can’t play, Leigh will be an easy plug and play option.
Clemson football has many talented players in their 2021 recruiting class that will have a big impact throughout their Clemson careers, but keep an eye on these four players in particular this upcoming season. Other players who could get action early are four-star tight end Jake Briningstool and four-star defensive tackle Payton Page.