Dabo Swinney updates Clemson football scholarship situation ahead of 2023 season

Clemson football has an open scholarship.
Well, sort of.
Coach Dabo Swinney confirmed on Tuesday that the Tigers will be at the NCAA’s 85-player scholarship limit heading into their 2023 season opener at Duke on Sept. 4.
In fact, Swinney said, Clemson’s actually got a scholarship to spare after closing spring practice with 88 scholarship players on the roster — a crunch brought on by several veteran players opting to return for their extra “COVID year” of eligibility.
But there’s a catch.
After the offseason departures of defensive back Malcolm Greene (transfer), defensive end Greg Williams (leaving football) and wide receiver Will Taylor (focusing on baseball), Clemson dropped down to 84 scholarship players.
But Swinney and company won’t be hitting the transfer portal in search of, say, one final offensive lineman or wide receiver or defensive back before the season.
Clemson has decided to leave its final scholarship up for grabs between Holden Caspersen and Philip Florenzo, the two players competing for its starting long snapper position. So, it’s a open scholarship essentially reserved for one of those two players — not a transfer.
“We’ve got one left and we’ll see because we got two snappers. I’ve got Caspersen, I’ve got Florenzo and both those guys do a great job,” Swinney said. “So we’ll see what happens between now and when school starts. But we’re at our number and in a good spot.”
Swinney previously said in April the Tigers would enter 2023 with 88 scholarship players and three former walk-ons — Caspersen, quarterback Hunter Helms and running back Domonique Thomas — were at risk of having their scholarships pulled if Clemson didn’t lose any others. (The NCAA allows teams to give or take away scholarships to former walk-on players on a semester-by-semester basis.)
That roster situation ended up sorting itself out with Greene, a graduate defensive back, transferring to Virginia to play for former Clemson assistant Tony Elliott in April; Williams, a longtime backup, leaving the team in June; and Taylor, a dual-sport athlete and likely 2024 MLB Draft first-rounder, choosing to focus exclusively on baseball.
Swinney said the roster crunch wasn’t as dire as it may have seemed. It was also a good problem to have, he said, considering it meant seven of his top veterans were returning.
Defensive tackles Tyler Davis and Ruke Orhorhoro, defensive ends Xavier Thomas and Justin Mascoll, defensive backs Sheridan Jones and Jalyn Phillips and center Will Putnam all chose to use their extra year of eligibility, extended by the NCAA to all athletes who competed during the COVID-19-affected 2020-21 season.
“Everybody likes to write about that, but we never did not have a plan,” Swinney said.
In awarding a scholarship to their starting long snapper, the Tigers are sticking to their strategy of building their roster primarily through the high school ranks — and rarely the transfer portal.
Over the last two cycles, Clemson has only signed two players out of the transfer portal: former Northwestern quarterback Hunter Johnson in the 2022 cycle and former Arizona State quarterback Paul Tyson for 2023.
Johnson, who started his college career at Clemson, served as a veteran presence and backup to DJ Uiagalelei and Cade Klubnik last season; Tyson, who started at Alabama, is expected to play the same role this season alongside Klubnik and Christopher Vizzina.
Clemson, the defending conference champion, heads to Charlotte for ACC Kickoff next week and is less than 50 days away from its season opener at Duke on Labor Day.
“I think the team is in a good spot,” Swinney said. “They have put the work in that’s necessary. … If they’ll stay the course, then this team will have an opportunity to have another excellent year here at Clemson. I don’t have any doubt about that.”

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