CLEMSON – Although there were few surprises, Clemson’s post-spring depth chart released Friday adds some clarity to the pecking order when the Tigers break fall camp Aug. 4.
As the coaches were well aware, the defense will be full of new faces with only three returning starters: cornerback Mackensie Alexander, free safety Jayron Kearse and nickel back Korrin Wiggins. B.J. Goodson, who played strongside linebacker last year, is moving to middle linebacker; Wiggins and Goodson each started six games in 2014.
Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd are the listed defensive end starters in place of the departed Vic Beasley and Corey Crawford, while Carlos Watkins and D.J. Reader are filling the void at defensive tackle left by Grady Jarrett. The position has thinned after Ebenezer Ogundeko was booted from the program for an arrest stemming from financial transaction fraud charges.
Goodson takes over for Stephone Anthony, and Ben Boulware is the new weakside linebacker replacing Tony Steward.
Alexander’s new bookend for the time being is Cordrea Tankersley, who was the post-spring starter last year before being supplanted by Garry Peters. The only either-or designation among Clemson’s starters on offense, defense or special teams belongs to strong safety, where T.J. Green and Jadar Johnson are battling to be Robert Smith’s successor.
On the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Deshaun Watson resumes his top spot as he recovers from ACL reconstructive surgery. Nick Schuessler, who served as the starter in spring ball, becomes the backup.
Tailback Wayne Gallman, receivers Mike Williams and Artavis Scott, tight end Jordan Leggett, left tackle Isaiah Battle and center Ryan Norton are holdovers on offense. Charone Peake is the third starting receiver, where he was a year ago at this time before combatting a troublesome knee.
Eric Mac Lain (left guard), Tyrone Crowder (right guard) and Joe Gore (right tackle) are new starters on the offensive line. Jay Guillermo, a veteran center and guard, missed the spring with undisclosed medical issues; he tweeted Thursday he plans to return to school in June.
Of note, there are ten freshmen listed on the depth chart, though none are starters. Eight have redshirted, while Mitch Hyatt and Jake Fruhmorgen are backup offensive tackles upon enrolling in January.
Wide receivers Trevion Thompson and Hunter Renfrow, offensive linemen Justin Falcinelli and Taylor Hearn, defensive ends Richard Yeargin and Chris Register and linebackers Korie Rogers and Kendall Joseph are each on the depth chart after redshirting last year.
The Tigers’ entire secondary – four starters, four reserves – are all entering their third year on campus.
Placekicker Ammon Lakip is back for his second starting year, and Andy Teasdall is the new punter. Scott and Germone Hopper are the top punt returners, while Gallman and Green are expected to handle kick returns.
Seth Ryan, a walk-on wide receiver and the son of Bills head coach Rex Ryan, is the holder. Jim Brown is the long snapper.
The total of 11 returning starters (seven offense, three defense, one special teams) is the team’s fewest since 2007, which also featured 11.
According to a Clemson release, it’s the first time the Tigers have had only three returning defensive starters since 1979, Danny Ford’s first full season.