Five juniors to watch in 2020
As AllClemson.com continues the series on players to watch for the upcoming 2020 football season, today we take a look at a junior class which is loaded with not only talent but also playoff experience.
OL Jackson Carman
Jackson Carman is the only returning starter along on the offensive line and will be called upon to lead this position group in his final two seasons in Clemson. The 6-5, 345 pound left tackle started all 15 games in 2019 after seeing reserve time at left tackle behind Mitch Hyatt through the 2018 season as a true freshman. He entered bowl season last year with 1,002 snaps over 28 career games. The Fairfield, Ohio native played at least 40 snaps each against Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, North Carolina, Florida State, Boston College, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, South Carolina and Virginia. He helped anchor a group that held Syracuse without a sack and earned an AP-All Bowl selection for his efforts limiting Chase Young in the Fiesta Bowl as the Tigers overcame a 16-0 deficit to defeat the No. 2 Buckeyes.
PK Benjamin Thomas [B.T.] Potter
Potter was ranked among the best of the best as a high school recruit and has continued to progress since arriving on campus. He earned the starting job as a true freshman and has continued to be the go-to guy. Heading into the 2020 campaign, the Rock Hill, S.C. native has connected on 14-of-22 field goals while becoming automatic on extra points (79-of-79). He has recorded 158 touchbacks on 214 career kickoffs and currently holds the College Football Playoff National Championship record for the longest field goal after connecting on a 52-yard attempt in the 2020 contest against LSU. He holds the best figure in the nation of 68.3 yard on kickoff average though 15 games last season. Having a reliable place-kicker is a key component to winning the special teams battle each week and Clemson appears to be in good hands with Potter in the fold.
DE Xavier Thomas
After what some might call a quiet season in 2019, Thomas is zoned in and ready to make some noise in 2020. Heading into a crucial junior season and year three in Clemson, Thomas is credited 74 tackles (18.5 for loss), 5.5 sacks, 4 pass breakups and one fumble recovery. Among some of his biggest highlights include a backbreaking sack to help secure a comeback victory over Syracuse as a freshman and six tackles (1.5 for loss) in the Fiesta Bowl in over No. 2 Ohio State as a sophomore. The 6'2, 265 pound defensive end has played 738 snaps in 27 games, having started in eight contests. Prior to Clemson, Thomas was the No. 3 overall player in the nation and No. 1 defensive end according to 247Sports. in addition, he was the No. 1 player in Florida by 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals.
TE Braden Galloway
While his time on the field as been limited so far, Galloway's return to the field in 2020 is arguably the most anticipated on the offensive side of the ball outside of Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne. Galloway was suspended all of 2019 with the exception of the two playoffs games last season due to testing positive ostarine — a banned substance by the NCAA — prior to the 2018 Cotton Bowl. However, Clemson fans were given a glimpse of his capabilities on the big stage in last season's playoff games against Ohio State and LSU. He caught two passes in the CFP National Championship including a 42-yard connection against Ed Orgeron's Tigers. Galloway's lone career touchdown reception occurred in his debut against Furman in 2018. With the need for a reliable option at tight end, his big play threat and mismatch for defenders as a 6-4, 240 pound target, his full-time return to Clemson's 2020 campaign is well welcomed for Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Tony Elliott.
WR Justyn Ross
With Tee Higgins electing to skip his senior season and bid farewell to WRU, up and coming star Justyn Ross is primed to help make up for the production Higgins leaves behind. Ross splashed onto the scene in his rookie season at Clemson making acrobatic catches all over the field for big plays through the air. When the stage lights were the brightest, he was at his best. Against Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl, he had six catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns while adding on another six-catch, 153 yard, two touchdown performance against his home state team and No. 1 Crimson Tide in the 2019 National Championship. That performance was highlighted by a 74-yard score. Last year's numbers weren't quite as flashy as the junior tallied 66 catches for 865 yards and eight touchdowns. Ross was the first top-ranked player from the state of Alabama to sign with Clemson earning a No. 1 ranking from ESPN and Rivals prior to inking with the Tigers.