5 Clemson Freshmen to Watch Vs. Citadel

Brad Senkiw

Clemson's ability to play 78 of the 80 players who traveled to Wake Forest last week speaks both to the proven philosophy of the program to build depth and the insanely talented young players the No. 1 Tigers have brought in the last couple of years. 

The 2020 recruiting class has already been anointed the best in Clemson history by the head coach and recruiting analysts. With the Tigers being a 46.5-point favorite against FCS foe The Citadel today in their only non-conference game of the fall, it should present an opportunity to clear the benches and play as many players as they have available in their home opener.

Many freshmen got their feet wet last week in the 37-13 win over the Demon Deacons, so they should be ready to produce much more in Week 2 and really show what the future is going to look like. Here are five freshmen to keep an eye on throughout today's 4 p.m. contest: 

D.J. Uiagalelei

Turn him loose! That's what the Clemson faithful have been screaming all week. The top QB of the 2020 recruiting class won the backup job to Trevor Lawrence by winning a fierce offseason battle with Taisun Phommachanh. The second QB on the field at Wake Forest, Uiagalelei only played two possessions and threw just three passes, completing two of them for 16 yards. He also ran once for a 3-yard gain. He didn't get a chance to show off that cannon arm, but he did prove to look intimidating physically behind center. The Ben Roethlisberger comparison should get the opportunity to hoist a few deep balls down the field in this game and even get extended time. Those in attendance should also be able to say they were among the limited fans there to witness his first career touchdown pass. 

Demarkcus Bowman

Nothing against Kobe Pace, the other freshman running back in this class who had as many yards per carry as Bowman in his debut last week, but this is the kind of game that should allow everyone to see what Bowman is capable of doing with the ball in his hands. He flashed his speed last week, looking like a back who can go from zero to 60 in a hurry, but Wake Forest made a couple of good tackles on him that kept Bowman from getting loose into the open field. Those runs might be easier to come by against The Citadel's smaller defensive front. Also, it would be good to see Bowman active in the passing game and maybe even on special teams, which would allow him the space to show off his elusiveness and talent. 

Myles Murphy/Bryan Bresee

Let's cheat the number a little bit and combine these two players since we'll be looking for the same thing from both. The question of can these guys play was answered with a resounding yes last week as Murphy led the team with seven tackles and two sacks while Bresee was credited with half a sack and looked the part physically as the best defensive player in the 2020 recruiting class. But this week presents a completely different challenge as this dynamic freshmen duo won't be asked to sack the QB since The Citadel runs an option look. Instead, it'll be important to see if Murphy and Bresee stick to their assignments and not get caught looking in the wrong place, which would be a sign of coachability. 

E.J. Williams

The talented receiver from the same hometown as Justyn Ross didn't break out in his debut last week, totaling one catch for six yards. Williams saw just two fourth-quarter targets in limited snaps with Uiagalelei and Phommachanh. It'll be interesting to see if he gets any run with the first-team offense this week. Regardless, expect to see him much more involved in the passing game, and Williams could very well post the first multi-catch game of his career. Remember 2017 when Clemson hosted The Citadel? It was THE breakout game for then-freshman receiver Tee Higgins, who had six catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns. That might be a bit too much to ask from Williams in his second game, but it wouldn't be a surprise for his name to pop on the stat sheet.

DeMonte Capehart

He's one of the forgotten members of that ridiculously talented defensive line class because he was out in Week 1. Swinney didn't elaborate on why Capehart was inactive and didn't make the trip to Winston-Salem, but in the era of COVID-19 and the team using a different injury policy this season, undisclosed absences could become common every week. It's still unknown if Capehart will dress out for The Citadel game, but if he does. he's worth keeping an eye on. The defensive tackle was a wrecking ball with speed at Hartsville (S.C.) High School and has every bit the talent to impact the Tigers more down the road. But with Tyler Davis out, it could open up a few extra snaps at a loaded position for Capehart, if he makes his debut.