The Atlantic Clemson… I mean Coastal… Conference seems a forgone conclusion once again in 2020. No other team has hoisted the ACC Championship Trophy since Florida State in 2014, and the odds of it happening this year are not good. Even at -350 odds on Clemson to win the conference seems like a deal inked in pen. And Virginia doesn’t change that. The last conference loss by the Tigers came at the hands of the Syracuse Orange on Oct. 13, 2017. There is a bevy of Clemson football prospects that will hear their name called in April. But first, they have to play Virginia.
The betting spread for Saturday’s game is over two touchdowns. It will take an inordinate amount of poor play from some incredibly talented individuals for this Clemson team to lose to the Cavaliers. Expect to feast your eyes on the wonders of backup Tigers quarterback D.J Uiagalelei, who is exactly the player you’d cerate in Madden from a height/weight standpoint at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds. It’s mind-boggling that someone can be that naturally large as a freshman in college. But he’s backing up Trevor Lawrence.
Clemson Tigers vs. Virginia Cavaliers | Top Football Prospects: QB Trevor Lawrence
He’s been alright so far. He’s just completing over 80% of his passes for 14 yards-per-attempt. Some of the throws he made in the opening week of college football displayed exactly why he’s going to be the first-overall pick in the NFL Draft. His blend of arm talent and athleticism is special. The only physical attribute he possesses that won’t make NFL decision-makers drool is his somewhat lean frame.
His three touchdowns on the ground are no coincidence. When things got more difficult in the College Football Playoffs against Ohio State and LSU, it was his legs that provided the difference between being a nuisance and an absolute menace to the defense.
RB Travis Etienne
Etienne is one of the most explosive offensive weapons in the nation. It’s difficult to lose games in college football when the team deploys the potential top draft picks at both quarterback and running back. Etienne possesses a blend of speed and balance that is rarely seen, and even at just a bit over 200-pounds, he’s able to break tackles and create yards after contact.
But to truly be the draft’s RB1, he needed to become a more well-rounded back. His ability as a receiver before the 2019 season was nearly non-existent, to the point where he even admitted it made him “nervous.” He still isn’t in the mold of a Christian McCaffrey, routing up linebackers and safeties from a receiver alignment. But with his explosiveness and ability in space simply getting him the ball in space behind the line-of-scrimmage can end in a touchdown.
Etienne’s speed cannot be understated. No angle is too obtusely taken. His ability to take the protractor and snap it in half is unparalleled by a back of his caliber. If he’s able to fine-tune his vision and feel for peeling back wide zone run looks, it’ll be game over for defenders both in college and the pros.
WR Amari Rodgers
Rodgers is an intriguing prospect simply due to the fact that he’s built in the new modern mold of a receiver in a running backs body. The young man is built with a thickness that makes you wonder how he became a receiver in the first place. He stands at a listed 5-foot-9 and 210 pounds, and he looks every bit of it when you see him on the field. It’s easy to see a role for him that is a mix between Titan’s receiver A.J Brown and 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel, although admittedly at a lower level of production and talent.
That frame plays to the physicality you’d expect, too. Rodgers is a tough down with the ball in his hands, particularly when it comes to smaller slot defenders attempting to corral him. Hopefully, in 2020 we see him run a more complex route tree to showcase his abilities because at the moment his tape is limited to simpler one-plant routes. It’ll be interesting with the departure of Tee Higgins and the injury to Justyn Ross to see if we see isolated whip, return, and vertical double moves like blaze outs on big-time third downs.
OT Jackson Carman
He’s not quite the behemoth that Mekhi Becton was coming out of Louisville, but it doesn’t make him any less impressive as a physical specimen. He stands 6-foot-5, and at 345 pounds, the power you’d expect from a young man this size is certainly there. When Carman is able to latch on the breastplate of a defender, there’s no guarantee that defender won’t disappear underneath him as he grades a road for Lawrence or Etienne.
What keeps him from being a top-tier prospect is that although his functional athleticism is enough for success, he isn’t the athlete that Becton was coming out. He generally does a good job keeping in his half-man relationship. However, his feet have a tendency to remain still once he reaches his set points, and he leaves himself susceptible to counters. The real matchup to watch with Carman will be when they play Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, we won’t see him play Chris Rumph and Victor Dimukeje in the regular season to get a great feel for his game against great pass rushers.
CB Derion Kendrick
Kendrick is the most intriguing of all the Clemson football prospects and is one of the more intriguing players in the country. He was recruited as a wide receiver but was quickly transitioned to cornerback in the spring of 2019. He stuck there and ended up starting at cornerback at a legitimate powerhouse school after never before playing the position before at the college level.
He still has a lot to learn regarding the position, but his natural ability is evident with every rep. His ball skills are evident from his days as a receiver, and if the technical ability comes along with his natural abilities, he could become one of the more well-known cornerback prospects in the nation for the 2021 NFL Draft.