The Clemson football team took a hit when the transfer portal opened Monday, but the damage may not be as bad as perceived at first blush.
Yes, the Tigers stand to lose nine players, five on offense and four on defense, but only one — quarterback DJ Uiagalelei — saw appreciable playing time last season.
Every team in the ACC saw players enter the transfer portal, with Boston College and Florida State having the fewest at two apiece. North Carolina had a league-high 12 players enter the Portal while Miami and Virginia Tech had 10 each, followed by Clemson and Louisville with nine each.
“Guys aren’t patient much anymore,” Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney said. “That’s the world we live in.”
Tennessee (10-2), which will be the opponent for Clemson (11-2) in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30 (8 pm, ESPN), has seven players in the transfer portal, including former Clemson running back Lyn-J Dixon.
Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of how the transfers and their departures will impact Clemson’s program should they all come to fruition:
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To the surprise of no one, Uiagalelei and former walk-on Billy Wiles are on their way out. Uiagalelei will be looking for a fresh start — perhaps closer to his home state of California — following a Mercurial three seasons at Clemson in which his performances ranged from that of a surefire NFL prospect (see Notre Dame, 2020) to that of a Division II backup (see South Carolina, 2022).
Hastening Uiagalelei’s departure was Cade Klubnik’s late-season emergence as the Tigers’ quarterback of the future. The Tigers still have sophomore Hunter Helms and freshman Trent Pearman in the fold and will welcome four-star Recruit Chris Vizzina out of Birmingham, Alabama, next season.
Kobe Pace is in the portal, which also is no surprise considering the continued emergence of starter and All-ACC selection Will Shipley and bulldozing backup Phil Mafah.
Pace missed five games with injury and totaled 74 yards on 27 attempts in the other eight games. Mafah will be backed by Keith Adams Jr. and Domonique Thomas next season.
The Tigers lost EJ Williams and Dacari Collins in the portal, which will impact depth at the position, but probably not production. Williams played in all 13 games last season, but had only seven receptions for 70 yards while Collins had one reception for eight yards before announcing his intention to leave the program in September after three games.
Clemson should be fine at the position with leading receiver Antonio Williams returning as well as long-ball threat Beaux Collins and ACC Championship Game Hero Cole Turner. Adam Randall, Will Taylor, Brannon Spector and Troy Stellato will be back and will be joined by newcomers Tyler Brown, a three-star receiver out of Greenville, and Noble Johnson, a big-bodied receiver out of Texas who will play in the Under Armor All-America Game.
The Tigers’ immense talent at linebacker is what sent Kevin Swint and Sergio Allen packing. Playing time was a challenge what with the emergence of Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Trenton Simpson, Barrett Carter, Keith Maguire and Wade Woodaz.
Although Clemson stands to lose Simpson in the NFL Draft, depth at the position shouldn’t be problematic. A pair of highly regarded four-star linebackers from Georgia — Dee Crayton and Jamal Anderson — will be arriving in the 2023 class.
Fred Davis II, a former four-star recruit who began the season as a starter but didn’t play in the Tigers’ last six games, entered the Portal after making 13 tackles and logging 187 snaps last season.
Again, Clemson remains fairly loaded at the position. Sophomore Nate Wiggins came on strong after a rough start and shone in the ACC Championship Game, as did freshman Jeadyn Lucas. Junior Malcolm Greene and freshman Toriano Pride are loaded with potential and the Tigers are bringing in four Corners in the recruiting class, including four-star Avieon Terrell, the younger brother of former Clemson and current Atlanta Falcons standout AJ Terrell.
The newcomers also include four-star Brandon Strozier of Alpharetta, Georgia, and three-star players Shelton Lewis and Misun Kelly, the latter of whom is out of nearby Daniel High.