CLEMSON — A top-five recruiting class is going to come in with high expectations. When programs recruit well, the results should show on the field very soon. Fans want immediate results.
Clemson supporters won’t have to wait long to see some true freshmen make a splash in 2021. The Tigers had 12 newcomers enroll early to participate in spring practice. And in Clemson’s spring game — where the White team won 14-13 over the Orange — many of them shined. The class of 2021 is making some noise right away.
The party got started on the first possession of the game when the Orange squad marched 73 yards in eight plays. From 14 yards out, D.J. Uiagalelei connected with high school teammate Beaux Collins on a quick out touchdown.
Elsewhere, five-star running back Will Shipley flashed some power in between the tackles, was used in the kick return game, had one reception, and was on the field with Uiagalelei on the final drive of the game. The newcomer will heavily be involved in game plans this fall.
Marcus Tate got plenty of snaps at left tackle and the 6-foot-5, 290-pound true freshman from South Florida certainly looked the part. Dacari Collins reeled in four receptions for 67 yards with a 100% catch rate and two grabs that went over 20 yards. Phil Mafah emerged late to finish with 38 yards on six carries and the game-winning score from four yards out with just over a minute remaining.
On defense, players were everywhere. Freshman defensive end Cade Denhoff recorded a pass breakup on a nice read-and-react move. Jeremiah Trotter Jr. finished with three tackles and the newcomer was constantly around the football. Nate Wiggins played up to the hype with four tackles and a pass breakup. The blue-chipper constantly flashed elite coverage skills; there’s a reason why the coaching staff has been praising him all spring.
Dabo Swinney went out of his way to praise hybrid defensive back Andrew Mukuba. The blue-chip recruit had to miss the spring game following an injury where the defensive back broke an unspecified bone in his arm. However, the young player took snaps at safety, nickel, and corner for the defense throughout camp. Mukuba is a multi-positional talent that will push for playing time in fall camp.
Even with COVID-19 causing all kinds of recruiting issues for college football and the class of 2021, Clemson got the job done. Swinney’s staff was able to lean on evaluations and relationship-building to construct a really solid haul. Expectations nearly always need to be tempered, but this group is making waves.
Don’t be surprised when some newcomers make a key play or two for the Tigers on the field in 2021.