With the regular season now over, the recruiting trail is heating up. The transfer portal opened on December 4th and more than 1,000 athletes decided to test the waters and enter. Along with that, high school recruits will start signing their National Letters of Intent very soon. December 20th marks the early signing day for those athletes. Clemson to this point already knows of quite a few key players it will be without come 2024. Already though, the Tigers have shown they are ready to reload and are continuing to add more weapons.
There are some very important players to the Clemson program making their way out this off-season. Some are going to the NFL, others have chosen to hit the portal for various reasons. The biggest losses we know of right now are mainly on the defensive side of the ball. Thankfully, the Tigers will keep star linebacker Barrett Carter but will lose his partner in crime Jeremiah Trotter Jr. Trotter, along with stud cornerback Nate Wiggins, decided to declare for the NFL Draft. The junior linebacker finished this season with 88 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss, five-and-a-half sacks, two force fumbles, seven pass breakups, two interceptions, and one touchdown. This earned him First-Team All-American honors from ESPN and Sports Illustrated, as well as a selection to the ALL-ACC First-Team.
He is a top-three linebacker prospect and is projected to go late first/early second round. Going to the draft with him is Wiggins, the junior cornerback who made plays everywhere for the Tigers’ defense this season. Wiggins also earned First-Team All-ACC honors after finishing the season with 29 total tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack, two forced fumbles, eight pass breakups, two interceptions, and one touchdown. He is a top-five cornerback prospect and is projected to go in the first round. Also, the four starting defensive linemen, Xavier Thomas, Tyler Davis, Ruke Orhorhoro, and Justin Mascoll have each used their last year of eligibility and will be moving on to the NFL.
Hitting the Portal
In terms of who is hitting the portal, there are a couple of big-time playmakers who surprisingly decided to find a different fit. Wide Receiver Beaux Collins announced early on that he was entering the portal and he has already committed to Notre Dame. Collins was a top-three receiver for the Tigers in 2023. He totaled 38 receptions, 510 passing yards, and three touchdowns this season. This is a big loss for a Clemson team that has been missing consistent playmaking at the wide receiver position. Collins was a guy who provided some of the most playmaking ability in the passing game.
Another key player who hit the transfer portal was Andrew Mukuba. Mukuba had the third most snaps on the Tiger defense this season with 578. He also had the fourth-most tackles with 45, and the second-most pass breakups with seven. This one may not make as much of an impact as it seems though just because of the amount of depth Clemson has at defensive back.
Many of the other players who entered the portal were mainly players who were providing depth throughout the year. One of these players who did give very good minutes when they entered games was Toriano Pride. Pride provided great depth at the cornerback position adding 14 total tackles and five pass breakups himself.
Time to Reup
With what the Tigers are losing, reloading with the right talent is important. Already, Clemson has put together another impressive recruiting class. Right now, the Tigers have the 17th-best 2024 recruiting class in the nation. It is the third-best class in the ACC. Out of those who have committed already, the 2024 recruiting class consists of two five-star players and nine four-stars. Many of the Tigers’ most urgent needs are being addressed as well with these talented young players on their way in. In this class, there is a five-star linebacker, a five-star and a four-star wide receiver, a four-star tight end, two four-star defensive linemen, two three-star offensive linemen, and a three-star kicker. These are some very skilled players all in positions that the Tigers need now.
Who’s Still Needed
With all the talent coming in, there are still a couple of positions where Clemson can still sure things up as well as add some depth. One of these places is at wide receiver. There are guys on the roster such as Antonio Williams who have the talent to be a big-time playmaker on the outside. There is also five-star recruit Bryant Wesco and four-star recruit TJ Moore on the way in. None of these guys are proven at the college level yet though. Williams has made some plays in games he’s played in, but was injured much of this season. Getting a sure-fire playmaker on the outside that Cade Klubnik can trust out of the portal would be huge for Clemson.
Some depth on the offensive and defensive line would be great too. Dabo Swinney did offer a couple of highly sought-after offensive linemen in the portal, but both committed to other programs. Linemen are coming in from high school and can be developed into very good players for sure. If Swinney could at least add a bit of depth and create more competition on the offensive line it could still be very beneficial.
Swinney has also talked about trying to pick up maybe one more linebacker. With Carter returning for another season though, it may not be as big of a need as before. The defensive line could use some depth though. As mentioned before the four starters are out of eligibility. It is going to be hard to find four guys as talented as that front. The Tigers have a start though with TJ Parker and Peter Woods. A couple more guys to rotate in next season would keep this defensive line dominant moving forward.
Looking to 2024
There is not much more the Tigers need to ensure the future keeps looking bright. There are a few players who still have decisions to make on their futures though like Will Shipley and Phil Mafah. The recruiting season does not end this month though. The Tigers will still have a chance to fill any holes that open up over the next few weeks. Already though, this class is stacked with talent. Next season Clemson really could have a chance to get back on track with the talent it will have.