Clemson’s Freshmen Making an impact

Clemson's freshmen making an impact
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Recruiting is the life blood of every college football program. Its importance is the same everywhere, but its affects are different depending on the level of program in question. When building a team, recruits can be sold on the opportunity of early playing time. As a program builds depth, it can start to develop its freshman and not have to rely on rushing youngsters on to the field before they are ready.  For the elite programs, they can focus on the development aspect, but they also attract a high enough caliber of talent that some kids still make an immediate impact. Dabo Swinney’s program is in the latter of those categories. Despite the abundance of upper-class talent, Clemson’s freshmen making an impact.

As depth is built, a football program is less reliant on first-year players. Coaching staffs can worry more about maintaining a culture and developing young talent to fill in when necessary. However, when you recruit at the highest level, the talent you bring in sometimes cannot be kept off the field long. The Tigers entered this season with the highest of expectations. The learning curve is steep when a season starts with so much pressure. Clemson’s freshmen have to prove they belong, and some of them are doing just that.

Clemson’s Freshmen Making an Impact

Offense

Trevor LawrenceQuarterback

Trevor Lawrence arrived last spring as the highest-profile recruit in the nation. In one of the bigger stories of this early season, the freshman from Georgia was named the starter over senior Kelly Bryant after week four. He has 868 yards and 11 touchdowns while completing 68% of his passes. The Tigers are his team now, and the weight of National Championship expectations falls on his shoulders. So far the kid has shown he is up to the challenge. He has the ability to make every throw and has shown good poise during his first season.  He will face only two teams in the top 50 in pass defense for the rest of the season. The opportunities to put up big numbers and get comfortable running this offense will be there as the ACC title game and College Football Playoff approach.

Justyn Ross – Wide Receiver

The Tigers have been led by their running game so far this season. However, they do have big-play options in their receiving corps as well. Justyn Ross has shown his explosiveness multiple times already through the first half of the year. He leads the team with four touchdown catches and 20.4 yards per reception. He is third with 14 grabs and second with 286 yards. Ross is not just a deep threat; he caught two slants to keep the chains moving on a crucial scoring drive when the Tigers trailed Syracuse in the fourth. His size and speed make him tough to deal with in a one on one situation with cornerbacks. His play-making ability will be leaned on by Lawrence for years to come.

Lyn-J Dixon – Running Back

The Tigers running game has been the backbone of this offense through six games. Sophomore Travis Etienne has emerged from their backfield as a possible Heisman candidate. Freshman Lyn-J Dixon has made the most of his chances to show he can also be an explosive play-maker the Tigers can count on. He has 27 carries for 298 yards and two scores in limited action. While there only a few of Clemson’s freshmen have been able to see the field on offense, the ones who have are proving their worth.  Dixon also has one catch for 42 yards and is averaging an absurd 12.1 yards per touch.  He is second on the team in rushing yards and scores, despite being fifth in carries.

Jackson Carman – Offensive Tackle

The biggest of Clemson’s freshmen, Jackson Carman is the back-up to four-year starter Mitch Hyatt at left tackle. The five-star recruit has played sparingly in the fourth quarter of the Tigers more lopsided wins. He has a bright future and should slide right into the starting tackle spot for the next few seasons.

Defense

Xavier Thomas – Defensive End

Just getting on the field for the Tiger’s defensive line shows just how good Xavier Thomas is. With four NFL draft picks returning in the trenches, it takes a lot of ability to crack the rotation. Thomas has done just that. He has ten tackles, four and a half for loss and two sacks in his young career. Despite the abundance of talent ahead of him, the freshman has worked his way onto the field, even in crucial moments. He had a huge sack on the last drive of the game against Syracuse; breaking off the end unblocked and slamming the quarterback to the ground.

Thomas is the only defensive player to make a big impact through six games. On a team with so much talent, it’s not surprising that most of Clemson’s freshmen on that side of the ball will have to wait on their turn. Defensive lineman Logan Rudolph and K.J. Henry have also seen the field, but mostly in back up duty.

Bright Present, Brighter Future

Clemson’s freshmen joined a program that is accustomed to winning at a high level. Despite the fact that they were part of one of the best classes in the country last year, most will have to wait their turn.  The Tigers have a veteran team with its sights set on championships. That means only the best-prepared players will get to playing time in their first year. Not many of the Tiger’s highly rated freshmen class will be able to make an impact in 2018. However, expect the ones who do earn playing time to continue performing at a high level.

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