The Clemson Tigers have elevated themselves to the top of college football over that last five years. They are no longer one of the programs that have to rebuild, they just reload and refresh with new talent each season. In 2019, they will be looking to replace a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball. Coach Dabo Swinney is also known for playing a lot of players each game. This means that even though the offense is deep with experienced talent, there will be chances for young players on that side of the ball as well. Swinney’s program has been recruiting at an elite level recently, so despite their depth, a few of the Clemson newcomers will make an impact.
Clemson Newcomers to Watch in 2019
The Tigers will be looking to repeat as National Champions this season, but to do so they will need to retool their defense. They lost almost their entire front seven from last season. The offense should be explosive but could benefit from some young talent stepping up to build depth. There will be opportunities for multiple Clemson newcomers to step up and break out this fall.
Andrew Booth – Freshman – Cornerback
The five-star recruit from Georgia has the prototypical size and athleticism of a lockdown corner. He has turned heads already at fall camp, and the Tiger’s coaching staff is expecting big things from him. It hasn’t just been his physical abilities that have helped him stand out. His attitude, instincts, and attention to detail are not that of a normal freshman, and these attributes have been praised by coaches. Booth will definitely have a role in the Tigers’ secondary this fall, and could eventually earn a starting spot.
Tyler Davis – Freshman – Defensive Tackle
The 290-pound interior lineman was a four-star recruit and rated as the seventh-best player at his position in the nation by ESPN. He quickly made his presence along the defensive line felt after enrolling in January. Davis was one of the standout performers during spring practice, showing off his power and agility. He got extra reps in the spring with both Nyles Pinckney and Jordan Williams out with injuries. Now he is competing with the two veterans for first-team reps in fall camp. Clemson must replace its entire defensive line from last year’s Championship team, and Davis will play a big role in that.
Joseph Ngata – Freshman – Wide Receiver
The Tigers will head into the season with one of the best wide receiver duos in the nation in Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. However, behind them, there will be ample opportunities for playmakers to emerge. Ngata turned heads with his performances in spring practice and will get his chances this fall. He and fellow freshman Frank Ladsen stole the show during the spring game. Ngata has carried that momentum into camp. Swinney praised the 6’4″ wideout after the Tiger’s first scrimmage of the fall on Saturday. His playmaking abilities will just add to what quarterback Trevor Lawrence already has at his disposal. He is also the first California native to sign with Clemson since 1991.
Mike Jones Jr – R-Freshman – Linebacker
The Tigers’ thinnest position right now is at linebacker. Naturally, that provides a chance for one of the Clemson newcomers to step up. The redshirt freshman from Tennessee did play in one game last season, recording two tackles against N.C. State. He has been working as Isaiah Simmons back up at outside linebacker. Jones Jr has the size and speed to be effective playing in space. He already knows the system having been in the program for a year. With the thin nature of the linebacker group, he will have a shot to see the field this fall.
K.J. Henry – R-Freshman – Defensive End
As a high school senior in North Carolina, this 6’4″ 240-pound pass rusher was one of the top ten recruits in the nation. Due to the depth the Tigers had along the defensive line in 2018, Henry was redshirted after playing in the allowed four games. He had nine tackles, two for a loss, and recovered a fumble in his limited playing time last year. Henry will look to take over one of the starting defensive end roles, and follow in the Tigers tradition of talented players on the edge. He is an explosive athlete, with the size and quickness to make him a nightmare for opposing offensive linemen.