5 things we learned as Clemson football hosts 2023 on-campus media day

CLEMSON-Talking season is underway in Upstate South Carolina, where Clemson’s football team is trying to defend its ACC championship and reach even greater goals.
Coach Dabo Swinney and all 10 of the team’s assistant coaches met with media members Tuesday with the 2023 season opener against Duke less than 50 days away. The annual ACC Kickoff media event is set for next week in Charlotte.
Here are five things we learned from Tuesday’s session as Clemson tries to follow up on an 11-3 season that featured a conference title and Orange Bowl appearance but fell short of the team’s lofty College Football Playoff standards.
The Tigers have a number of short- and long-term injuries, the majority of which won’t affect the two-deep depth chart.
Most notably, safety Tyler Venables is going to miss most or all of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a tear in his hip labrum. The goal, Swinney said, is for Venables to return late in the season while redshirting — which will allow the rotational safety to play two more seasons of football across three years.
Other players who are out to start preseason camp: defensive tackle Tré Williams, defensive back Myles Oliver, walk-on safety Bubba McAtee and walk-on receiver Hampton Earle.
Offensive lineman Dietrick Pennington was branded last summer as a breakout player of sorts. That never happened, as the redshirt sophomore struggled with consistency and conditioning.
Offensive line coach Thomas Austin said that won’t be the case in 2023. Pennington’s had a “really, really, really good summer” in all aspects, he said, as the guard pushes for a rotational spot. That included a major drop in weight. After weighing in around 360 pounds at times last year, Pennington’s down to around 340.
“So he’s very lean,” Austin said. “That’s not everybody. If I was 336, it wouldn’t look good. But he does.”
Position coaches Mike Reed and Tyler Grisham are both excited about the potential of Misun Kelley, who was recruited to Clemson as an athlete and will practice as both a defensive back and a wide receiver to start his Tigers career.
Kelley was a three-star recruit out of Daniel High School — essentially Clemson’s backyard — who flipped to his hometown school from Virginia Tech late in the cycle. Kelley’s 5-foot-10 but dynamic, both coaches said.
“You wanna make sure the kid has a strong foundation on either side of the ball,” Reed said. “You don’t want him to flip flop around like he’s a fish out of water. … You want him to have a strong foundation.”
The January firing of former offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter reiterated one thing for wide receivers coach Tyler Grisham: College football is a business. And coaches are evaluated just like players.
Watching Swinney part ways with Streeter, a longtime friend, after one season as offensive coordinator was “really hard,” Grisham said.
But “we have a lot of staff meetings that y’all don’t see,” he said. “So I’m reminded of the importance of doing your job well and right. We all know this is a business.”
For Grisham, that means getting Clemson’s receiving corps back up to an elite standard — one he admitted has been lacking in recent years but feels confident in heading into the first year of Garrett Riley’s tenure as offensive coordinator.
Outside of the big names — Peter Woods, Vic Burley — another freshman with a legitimate opportunity to contribute is defensive back Khalil Barnes. Safeties coach Mickey Conn had no issues confirming Barnes is “gonna play a lot this year.”
The early enrollee was committed to Wake Forest before Clemson offered and ultimately flipped him. He topped out as a four-star recruit and the nation’s No. 21 athlete but has already entrenched himself as a player in Clemson’s DB rotation after playing both ways in high school.
Barnes also had the game-winning interception in the Tigers’ April spring game.
“The sky’s the limit with him,” Conn said.

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