Despite an 11-3 season and an ACC title for the Clemson Tigers, the team knows it is considered a down year for them as they are typically a national champion contender. Inconsistency at the quarterback position and a youth movement within the roster resulted in the team not reaching expectations. With 15 returning starters on the roster, Clemson is poised to get back to supremacy in the 2023 college football season.
Clemson Tigers Top 10 Returners in 2023
Analyzing the returning players at every school is a difficult task in the transfer portal area. As such, we’ve included transfer-portal athletes that were included on each team’s roster page to open fall camp in addition to the rostered players from last year.
1) Jeremiah Trotter Jr., LB
Clemson’s general at middle linebacker is back, and the scary thing for non-Tiger fans is Jeremiah Trotter Jr. is just a junior. Last season, Trotter led the team in tackles with 89 while also leading in sacks with 6.5 sacks. He also contributed five pass deflections, two interceptions, one for a touchdown, and one forced fumble.
Trotter landed on the Second-Team All-American list for his performance in 2022.
There isn’t much Trotter can’t do as he will someday find himself as a first-round pick in the NFL Draft. From making the tackle to dropping back into coverage, Tiger fans know they have someone special at linebacker. He’s only going to get better from here, and that’s a scary idea.
MORE: Clemson Depth Chart
2) Tyler Davis, DT
The Tigers have a beast in the middle of the defensive line as Tyler Davis is one of the most decorated defensive tackles in school history with three years being on the All-ACC team. Davis started 11 of 12 games he appeared in, recording 27 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, one pass breakup, and one fumble recovery.
Davis has proven to be one of the top defensive tackles in the country as he has shown himself to overpower offensive linemen with the strength to get to the ball carrier. He will be seen as a potential first-round pick in the NFL Draft. Clemson will be expecting him to dominate on the defensive line this season.
3) Barrett Carter, LB
Another stellar linebacker for Clemson, Barrett Carter also had an outstanding season at linebacker for the Tigers. Carter finished third on the team in tackles with 73, adding 10.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, ten pass deflections, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions.
Carter is a versatile linebacker that Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has called one of the “best pure football players in 20 years”. His instincts and vision are what help make him a dominant force on the outside. He and Trotter are elite athletes who are poised for another strong season.
4) Will Shipley, RB
Quick, shifty, and versatile are some of the traits to describe running back Will Shipley as he is one of the most dynamic players in the country. Shipley finished the 2022 season with 1,182 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns while also recording 242 receiving yards and 324 kickoff return yards.
He became the first player in ACC history to be First-Team All-ACC in three different categories (running back, all-purpose, and specialist).
There are no limitations for Shipley as he is one of the most exciting players in college football. Despite everything he is already doing, his production is only going to increase more and more. He’s one of those players that Clemson wants on the field every play because of how versatile he is.
5) Ruke Orhorhoro, DT
The defensive line for Clemson is so deep, especially at defensive tackle as Ruke Orhorhoro is another impactful player. Last season, Orhorhoro recorded 28 tackles, eight tackles for loss, four sacks, five pass breakups, and a fumble recovery in 14 games played.
Orhorhoro isn’t a typical defensive tackle as he can get off the line quickly while also showing off pure strength to shed offensive linemen. He makes for a perfect complementary piece for Davis on the defensive line. The two of them in the middle make them one of the best defensive tackle duos in college football.
6) Andrew Mukuba, S
Since joining Clemson as a freshman two years ago, safety Andrew Mukuba has been the model of consistency and improvement, getting more playing time than most defensive backs in school history.
Mukuba played in 12 games with 11 starts in 2022, recording 54 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, four pass deflections, and one interception.
What helped Mukuba’s game last season was an improvement in pass coverage. Fans know how instinctive he is in making tackles and tracking down receivers. Season after season he has improved his game in the secondary and will continue to be the focal point and now the leader of the secondary.
7) Will Putnam, C
The Tigers’ leader on the offensive line, Will Putnam, returns for one more season with the team after a successful 2022 campaign. Last year, Putnam transitioned from guard to center and started every game as the team’s starting center, racking up 996 total offensive snaps.
He earned a Third-Team All-ACC selection and even added a First-Team All-ACC selection from College Football Network.
Putnam did a good job in pass blocking but excelled in run blocking, helping put together one of the top rushing attacks in the ACC. In his last season with the team, he has proven to be a versatile player with room to grow.
8) Cade Klubnik, QB
A new era begins in Clemson with sophomore quarterback Cade Klubnik taking over the starting quarterback job. He appeared in 10 games, starting one for the Tigers last season. Klubnik completed 61% of his passes for 697 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions in 2022.
The upside for Klubnik is off the charts, but he hasn’t reached his full potential as he hasn’t gotten the chance to start many games. As such, 2023 is his chance to prove to Tiger fans that he’s the next great quarterback like Trevor Lawrence and Deshaun Watson. He’s got all the mechanics to be a great quarterback and has the offensive weapons to be successful.
9) Walker Parks, RG
Walker Parks is another offensive lineman who played a vital role in the offense efficiently moving the ball last season. Parks was able to help with the rushing attack as well as protect Klubnik during the ACC Championship game, allowing no sacks in the game.
Putnam and Parks help solidify the strength of the offensive line that comes from the interior.
MORE: Clemson Tigers Schedule
10) Nate Wiggins, CB
Junior cornerback Nate Wiggins made a splash in the lineup for the first time in 2022 with an increased role on defense. Wiggins finished the 2022 season with 29 tackles, two tackles for loss, 14 pass deflections, one interception, and one touchdown.
We here at College Football Network named him to the First-Team All-ACC team for the season.
The lengthy cornerback played well against the pass and was tough in coverage. Wiggins will try to play a big factor in the pass defense after the unit finished 75th last season. The front seven is covered so it will be on Wiggins to be their top shutdown corner.