Tuesday Top-5: Clemson Tigers Impacted by Departures

Here are five Clemson players who might not be superstars this fall, but they'll be called upon to play major roles after others graduated or transferred out of the program.

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Maybe some of the names on the list below you've seen and heard of before. Others might not ring quite as many bells, but Clemson football heads into 2021 looking for less-experienced players to take over for others who departed either through graduation or transfer. 

It certainly puts Dabo Swinney's strong recruiting classes to the test. These players might not be superstars this fall, but they'll be called upon to play major roles. Here's a look at five Tigers impacted by departures:

1. Trenton Simpson: As soon as Mike Jones Jr. announced his intentions Monday to enter the NCAA transfer portal, this linebacker jumped to the top of this list. Simpson had a solid freshman campaign, totaling 28 tackles and 6.5 tackles for a loss in 2020. He struggled at times in coverage but looked more comfortable along the line of scrimmage. Brent Venables' linebacker/safety hybrid is hard to learn, and Simpson should improve greatly. He'll need to or the Tigers will be relying on even more youth to play a crucial role. 

2. Mason Trotter: With Cade Stewart reportedly moving on and not taking advantage of another senior season, a huge hole at center is left behind. Stewart played 827 snaps and started every game in 2020 while Trotter saw 147 snaps in nine games. He spent 2019 trying to get bigger, and he's up to 280 pounds, but Trotter will need a little more beef and a ton of reps this spring to be ready for the season. He's not a lock to be the starter, but he finished last year second on the depth chart. 

3. Ruke Orhorhoro: Clemson had much bigger plans in 2020 for Orhorhoro in his second season as a defensive tackle, but an injury derailed his season. He only played 33 snaps over four games after getting hurt in the opener at Wake Forest and didn't record a tackle. That'll change in 2021 with the transfers of Jordan Williams and Nyles Pinckney. While Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis will have the starting roles locked down, depth will be comprised of young players like Orhorhoro who need to prove their ready.

4. Tre Williams: Speaking of that, here's another defensive tackle who will be called upon much more in 2021. Williams is a young player Swinney has been very high on, and the staff believes he'll be a big part of the defense one day. That day might be sooner rather than later. While Darnell Jefferies stands to see more backup snaps this fall, Williams should be a year stronger and presumably healthy. He missed nearly all of 2020 with an injury, but he did record four tackles, including 1.5 for a loss, in two games before his season ended.

5. Will Shipley: It seems like a long time ago now, but Demarkcus Bowman's decision to transfer midseason really messed up Clemson's running back room. We all knew Travis Etienne wasn't returning, and while Lyn-J Dixon and Chez Mellusi will be the primary backs heading into spring and fall camp, the Tigers lack that big-play threat that Bowman was expected to give them at running back. Enter Shipley, who could fill that role both carrying the ball and in the passing game if the highly-regarded prospect can learn the offense quickly this spring.