Super 7: Ranking Clemson's Top Freshmen Performances
Bryan Bresee said it best earlier this month: When you get to college, recruiting stars go out the window.
It's all about what you can do at this level. Coaches don't assemble their depth charts based on where prospects ranked as seniors in high school. You have to prove it on the field, both in practice and in games.
Still, Clemson's 2020 recruiting class is the best on-paper haul the Tigers have ever had, and through two games, it's not crazy to think several of those freshmen are showing why. Yes, it's come against Wake Forest and The Citadel, and if the Tigers had opened against Auburn and Miami, those young prospects might not have received as much playing.
But some of them still would have, and there's a reason why the coaches have said they've hit on player after player in this group. While it's too early in their careers to start throwing out grandiose projections on what all they'll accomplish during their time at Clemson, it is a good time to evaluate what they've shown so far.
Here's a ranking of Clemson's top-7 freshmen based on their performance through two games:
1. Myles Murphy
The 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive end has benefited greatly from the absence of veteran starters Xavier Thomas and Justin Foster. Murphy leads the team in tackles (10), tackles for a loss (5) and sacks (2) in 44 snaps. He's also forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by James Skalski. As a freshman, he already looks like what former Clemson edge rusher and NFL first-round draft pick Clelin Ferrell did three years into the program. Even when the older ends return, Murphy's early-season performance demands playing time.
2. D.J. Uiagalelei
Another freshman who certainly looks the part, Uiagalelei caught on to the system quickly and won the backup QB job. While Clemson has yet to fully turn him loose passing the ball, he's 10-of-14 passing for 91 yards. He's done his scoring damage on the ground with two rushing touchdowns against the Bulldogs. Uiagalelei has done enough to warrant a few more packages throughout the season, even when the competition level goes up. His best days are ahead, but it's ridiculous how Clemson keeps bringing in ready-to-contribute QBs of this caliber.
3. Bryan Bresee
The numbers are coming...and soon. The 6-5, 300-pound Maryland native already looks the part of a big-time college player physically, and he's shown off his power and athleticism against the Demon Deacons and Bulldogs. Bresee does have half a sack and knocked down a pass behind the line of scrimmage against The Citadel. His high school film showed him simply overpowering smaller opponents, but there's no question through two games that Bresee is ready for this level.
4. E.J. Williams
The rangy receiver from the same hometown as Justyn Ross has four catches for 64 yards in two games. His 16 yards per reception is tied for second among receivers behind Amari Rodgers and his long catch of 38 yards is third-best at his position. Williams has at the very least shown he has a high ceiling, and while he needs to become more comfortable in his knowledge of the offense, it's not going to take long for him to have a breakout performance.
5. Walker Parks
When this young man knows what he's doing, watch out. Parks has displayed excellent footwork and impressive strength for his age. Let him make mistakes now. He's going to continue getting more and more playing time and by the middle of this season, Parks will look more like a veteran. He draws comparisons to former Tiger great Mitch Hyatt, and rightfully so.
6. Trenton Simpson
A late addition during last year's early-signing period after another recruit committed elsewhere, coaches raved about Simpson during the spring. So far, he looks like he'll live up their hype. Simpson has a tackle for a loss and won the backup job to Mike Jones at the important "Sam" linebacker spot.
7. DeMonte Capehart
It was just one game against an FCS foe, but the Hartsville, S.C. native was able to overwhelm The Citadel's front line, just like he did in high school. He's got a great first step and can get inside a guard or center in a hurry. At 305 pounds, he's ready for more snaps and likely will get them, even with Tyler Davis returning against Virginia next week.