CLEMSON — With all the players from the 2018 recruiting class on campus, the 2018 Clemson Tigers football team is complete.
Now is the time when the pieces begin to fall into place and those who will have an impact on the depth chart make their presence known.
Over the course of the next few days, we will begin to look at the players from each class that have the best chance to crack the depth chart and play a key role on the roster as the Tigers begin their quest to get to San Fransisco and a third appearance in the national championship game in the last four seasons.
Today we begin our roster look with the true freshmen — some of whom have been enrolled since January while others just arrived on campus on Father’s Day.
Clemson’s 17-member scholarship class included players from eight states. Six were ranked as the best in their respective state by either ESPN.com or Rivals.com. Clemson signed the No. 1 player according to at least one service from North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Alabama and Georgia.
Twelve of the 17 scholarship players in the class are ranked in the ESPN Top 300, including 10 in the top 150. It is tied for the most top 150 players, according to ESPN, in Clemson history and the most since 2008 when Clemson had 10 top 150 ESPN-ranked players in Tommy Bowden’s final recruiting class.
The first player who will see playing time this season as a true freshman comes as no surprise to Tiger fans — quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Lawrence enrolled in January and immediately turned heads. He was ranked as the No. 1 player in the nation by 247Sports and Rivals and No. 2 player by ESPN, and the No. 1 quarterback in the nation by 247Sports and Rivals.
Lawrence was also named USA Today National Offensive Player of the Year, a U.S. Army All-American Game participant, U.S. Army Player of the Year and Gatorade Player of the Year in Georgia as a junior and senior.
Lawrence was a four-year starter at Cartersville High School, where he amassed a 52-2 record as starter, including a 41-game winning streak and 14-2 record in the playoffs, where he led his team to four region titles and two state titles. He also had 13,908 passing yards and 161 touchdowns against 21 interceptions in his career, and set state records for passing yards and passing touchdowns previously held by former Tiger Deshaun Watson (2014-16).
On his first drive of the Orange and White spring game, Lawrence launched a 50-yard touchdown pass to Tee Higgins on the second pass attempt of his Clemson career. He finished the game with 122 yards passing on 11-of-16 passing, one touchdown and no interceptions.
The second true freshman to have impact this season is wide receiver Derion Kendrick.
Kendrick entered Clemson in January ranked as the No. 26 player in the nation by 247Sports, No. 30 player by Rivals and No. 62 player by ESPN, the No. 4 wide receiver in the nation by 247Sports and No. 6 wide receiver by ESPN and Rivals.
Kendrick was also ranked as the No. 1 player in South Carolina by 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year in South Carolina.
Kendrick, while not the highest rated receiver to enroll at Clemson this year, with Justyn Ross of Alabama claiming that honor, immediately caught the attention of the coaching staff. He drew comparisons to Tiger great Sammy Watkins after only two practices.
With the Tigers looking to regain their form in the downfield passing game, look for Kendrick to play early and often this season.
The last true freshman to have a significant impact this season is defensive back Kyler McMichael.
The No. 53-ranked player in the nation by Rivals, No. 56 by 247Sports and 90th by ESPN, McMichael was ranked as high as the No. 8 cornerback in the nation by Rivals.
While McMichael is not the most decorated or the highest rated player of Clemson’s class, he plays a position where there is the most amount of concern for defensive coordinator Brent Venables — the secondary.
McMichael will have an opportunity to earn early playing time and move quickly up the depth chart this fall due to the void of playmakers in the secondary for the Tigers.