CLEMSON – Clemson has started preparing for its opponents now instead of just practicing against each other, and as the Tigers turn the page to the start of the season, Clemson’s staff has a good idea of which freshmen will play and avoid a redshirt.
Clemson signed 14 players in its 2017 recruiting class and Tigers coach Dabo Swinney announced which ones will be able to contribute in Year 1 after Monday’s practice.
Swinney said both freshmen receivers, Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers, will play this season.
Cornerback AJ Terrell, who arrived as one of the top cornerbacks in the nation, will also play in 2017.
Defensive end Justin Foster will be counted on to contribute, despite changing positions from linebacker, which he played during high school.
“Justin Foster, he’s probably not ready to play, but we really almost have to play him. We’ve got to get him ready as the season goes,” Swinney said. “We’ve got talent at that position, but not much experience without having to move Christian (Wilkins) out and all of that stuff.”
Defensive end Logan Rudolph is battling a shoulder injury and will need surgery at some point but will try to get through the season first.
The Tigers were hurt depth wise at defensive end when Richard Yeargin was lost for the season over the summer after suffering a serious neck injury in a car accident.
“Losing Yeargin was a big loss for us. (Justin) is a kid, if Yeargin was back, we’d have probably been able to hold him, but with Yeargin out and Logan’s got a bum shoulder. Right now we’re going to try to bring (Logan) along and see if he can go and I don’t know. I don’t know how he’ll hold up,” Swinney said.
Quarterback Hunter Johnson enters the season No. 3 on the depth chart but is not far behind Kelly Bryant or Zerrick Cooper and will receive playing time.
Running back Travis Etienne, who has impressed throughout fall camp, will also avoid a redshirt and should get opportunities early on in the season.
The Tigers signed three offensive linemen in Matt Bockhorst, Blake Vinson and Noah DeHond, and while Swinney would like to redshirt all three, Vinson is on the fence.
“We’ll probably hold those three offensive linemen. Blake is a guy we’ll probably keep him with us for a little while. We’ve just got a lot of versatility in our o-line, guys that can move,” Swinney said. “We’ll probably keep repping him a little bit and make a full-time decision. He’s one of those bubble guys that we’ll probably make a final decision a little bit later.”
Defensive tackle Jordan Williams, who played defensive end in high school, will likely redshirt, but Clemson’s coaching staff believes he has a bright future.
“We’re really excited about Jordan. He’s playing a new position so it’s a little bit of a transition for him, but man he’s going to be a good player,” Swinney said.
Quarterback Chase Brice and cornerback LeAnthony Williams are both expected to redshirt.