3 questions facing Clemson football ahead of spring practice
Clemson begins its 2022 spring football season on Wednesday, just five weeks before the Tigers’ spring game on April 9.
Clemson is facing one of its most intriguing offseasons of Dabo Swinney’s tenure. The Tigers lost three regular season games last year and needed a bowl game win over Iowa State to get to 10 victories.
They also lost several longtime assistant coaches — Brent Venables, Tony Elliott and Todd Bates — to other programs. Athletic director Dan Radakovich also departed for Miami.
How will Clemson adapt to so much change in a single offseason? Time will tell, but this spring will be the first chance for the Tigers to settle into their new reality.
Here’s three questions facing Clemson going into spring ball:
Will the quarterback room be improved?
Clemson’s biggest weakness last season was the quarterback position. DJ Uiagalelei failed to meet lofty expectations and finished with the worst passer efficiency rating of any quarterback in the ACC.
Still, there’s room for some optimism moving forward. Clemson’s offensive line and receiving corps were a mess for large portions of last season. Both of those units should be improved this year, and new offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter might have new ideas to help unlock Uiagalelei’s strengths.
It all starts this spring. If Uiagalelei has a good offseason, he’s likely to get every opportunity to keep the starting job through the end of the 2022 season. If not, 5-star freshman Cade Klubnik will be waiting for his chance. Klubnik is an early enrollee and is coming off one of the best careers in the history of Texas high school football.
Can Clemson take advantage of its returning experience?
Clemson returns a ton of talent from last year’s 10-3 team, including multiple players who missed most of the year due to injury.
Here’s a breakdown of Clemson’s returning experience:
It's Spring Practice Eve, and the torrent of injuries in 2021 has helped Clemson hit the field with an immensely experienced roster for 2022.
Including kicker/punter starts, 37 members of Clemson's current roster have started at least one career game for the Tigers. pic.twitter.com/YAVA0MIKJu
— Ross Taylor (@ClemsonFBRoss) March 1, 2022
That returning production should show up on offense especially. The Tigers rank No. 17 nationally in returning offensive production, according to ESPN’s Bill Connelly. The defensive number is lower because Clemson is losing both starting cornerbacks — but the Tigers’ recruiting prowess in recent years means there shouldn’t be too much of a drop-off.
Who will fill key roles at cornerback, center?
Speaking of cornerback, who will play there for the the Tigers this season? Clemson lost All-ACC cornerbacks Mario Goodrich and Andrew Booth Jr. to the NFL Draft. Those will be important holes to fill, and that process starts this spring.
Sheridan Jones is likely to lock down one of the starting cornerback spots after he recorded 21 tackles, 1 interception and 2 deflections last season. But who will be his counterpart? Candidates include Malcom Green, Fred Davis II and Nate Wiggins. There’s also highly-touted freshmen Jeadyn Lukus and Toriano Pride who could get a serious look this spring.
At center, Clemson got a dose of bad luck last month when offensive lineman Hunter Rayburn was forced to medically retire. That leaves a big gap for the Tigers in a position that doesn’t have a clear solution entering spring camp.
Ryan Linthicum is probably the leading internal candidate to take over at that spot if he has a good spring. Tristan Leigh or Mitchell Mayes could also be options, but none of that trio has significant experience.
There’s also a chance that Swinney decides to look for a solution in the transfer portal if things don’t go well this spring.
Clemson’s spring game is on April 9.