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Clemson 2021 Spring Game Preview

April 3, 2021

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Clemson football fans are ready to see the Tigers on the field again after the disappointing 49-28 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl. It's spring and on Saturday, fans will watch the Tigers in a game atmosphere before the opening season Sept. 4 kickoff against a talented Georgia Bulldogs team in Charlotte, NC. 

The Orange vs White game will start at 1:00 p.m. and air exclusively on the ACC Network. 

The team will be split into two rosters, the Orange, coached by defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall and the White, coached by receivers coach Tyler Grisham. 

First, here are the players not expected to play on Saturday:

Andrew Mukuba, K.J. Henry, Justyn Ross, Baylon Spector, Brannon Spector, Malcolm Greene, Nolan Turner, Trent Howard, Braden Galloway, Frank Ladson, Mario Goodrich, Etinosa Reuben, Lannden Zanders, James Skalski, Matt Bockhorst, Luke Price, Jack McCall, and Sage Ennis. 

Here are a few quick notes about position groups and players ahead of Saturday's action: 

Quarterbacks: D.J. Uiagalelei (Orange) starts his journey as the main man under center on Saturday after exploding on the national scene with 342 passing yards and three touchdowns (one rushing) against Boston College and 439 yards - a Clemson freshman record - and three total touchdowns (one rushing) versus No. 4 Notre Dame. 

Taisun Phommachanh (White) miss some time earlier this spring, so it will be interesting to see how much he has improved from last season. 

Running backs: All-time ACC rushing leader Travis Etienne is gone and eyes will be on senior Lyn-J Dixon. Dixon has waited his turn but got enough carries in recent years to give fans more than a glimpse of what he can do. 

The freshmen will have more eyes on them from this group. Five-star speedster Will Shipley and power back Phil Mafah may have to wait another year to see significant snaps, but a good spring and preseason could move them ahead of the presumptive curve that we tend to see at the position. 

Offensive line: This group lost Blake Vinson (retirement), and starters Jackson Carman and Cade Stewart from a unit that faced criticism after losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State. 

Bockhorst, the senior leader, said physicality was lacking in those games and an emphasis on it and building depth were prioritized this spring. Walker Parks is a new starter at right tackle, Jordan McFadden, a starter at right tackle in 2020, moved to left tackle and Mason Trotter and Hunter Rayburn are in a battle for center. This spring and preseason are huge for the entire unit. 

Receivers: Last year, this group never got to its full potential because Joseph Ngata and Frank Ladson spent most of their time battling injuries. As early enrollees, both splashed in their lone spring game and fans will be looking for the same from freshmen Dacari Collins and Beaux Collins, who head coach Dabo Swinney said of the duo is "way ahead of the curve" for a typical freshmen.

Freshman tight end Jake Briningstool has also earned some praise this spring. Swinney called him "a natural football player."

Defensive line: Swinney has been very complimentary of starters Tyler Davis, Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy and fans expect to see them play well today, but the young guys like Demonte Capehart, Tre Williams, Payton Page and Cade Denhoff are the hot ticket this Saturday. 

Linebackers: Without starters Baylon Spector and Skalski, Keith Maguire, LaVonte Bentley, Jake Venables, and Kane Patterson will start and Sergio Allen, Kevin Swint, also a defensive end, and Jeremiah Trotter Jr., who Dabo dubbed "Quiet Assassin" and as good as a linebacker prospect that you could sign out of high school, should see their first significant snaps.

Defensive backs: This entire group was maligned after the Sugar Bowl and the spotlight will be on them in 2021. The group is thin after losing cornerbacks Derion Kendrick and LeAnthony Williams and will need freshman Nathaniel Wiggins and sophomore Fred Davis to step up at cornerback and Tyler Venables and Ray Mickens Jr., who barely saw the field in 2020, at safety. 

Let's face it. Fans are just happy to see football in the spring and Death Valley again.

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Clemson 2021 Spring Game Preview

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