CJ Spiller made history in 2009 as the first running back for the Tigers to receive Heisman consideration. He was recognized for his exceptional skills and dynamic performance on the field, making him a standout player in college football.
In 2015, a Clemson alumnus named Deshaun Watson received Heisman consideration, becoming the second quarterback in the university’s history to achieve this feat. The first was Steve Fuller, who finished sixth in 1978.
Watson was even invited to the award ceremony for two consecutive seasons, but unfortunately, he finished second and third despite having an unforgettable performance in college football history.
The most recent player from Death Valley to receive Heisman consideration was Trevor Lawrence in 2019. Lawrence was highly acclaimed when he first arrived on campus.
Still, despite his numerous accomplishments, he fell short of becoming the first Clemson player to win the Heisman Trophy, ultimately finishing in second place in 2021.
Clemson’s New Hopes
The Tigers have two more players who can end the program’s Heisman drought: sophomore quarterback Cade Kludnik and junior running back Will Shipley.
Garrett Riley, the new offensive coordinator at Clemson, has a successful history of quarterback development. Tanner Mordecai, who transferred from Oklahoma, became the SMU offensive leader in 2021.
In his inaugural season as a starter, he earned the title of Second Team All-AAC and led SMU to an 8-4 record.
Mordecai established a school record with seven touchdown passes against Abilene Christian, which he surpassed last year with nine touchdown passes against Houston.
During his debut season at TCU in 2022, Riley played a crucial role in transforming Max Duggan into a Heisman Finalist. Duggan’s success story is the most impressive achievement of Garrett Riley’s career.
Despite not starting in the opening week, Duggan led TCU to the College Football Playoff and emerged as one of the four finalists for the Heisman Trophy. He exhibited remarkable accuracy with the deep ball and dominated the offense, amassing 3,698 passing yards and 41 total touchdowns.
Klubnik’s exceptional physical attributes and remarkable lineage position him as a top contender for Clemson University’s first-ever Heisman Trophy, potentially securing his place in the school’s history as its most remarkable success story.
One of the standout players on Clemson’s offense is undoubtedly Shipley. With his impressive skill set and abilities on the field, he is poised to take on an even more significant role in the team’s offense come 2023.
The team is known for its highly competitive nature within the ACC and has a solid chance of making it to the playoffs when December rolls around.
Shipley is expected to gain the most advantage from the new offensive schemes, which will likely result in more opportunities.
In the previous year, he achieved a PFF grade of 78.5 while accumulating almost 1,200 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Additionally, he recorded 37 receptions for 237 yards. Shipley’s production will also improve with the help of an upgraded offensive line.
Shipley can achieve a season with 2,000 all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns. This would make for a solid Heisman case, particularly if Clemson emerges victorious in the ACC and earns a spot in the College Football Playoff.
It’s possible that Swinney and the Tigers could have the best backfield in the country with the addition of Riley on the sidelines, regardless of who ends up winning the trophy.
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