The 2021 season was a change of pace for the Clemson Tigers. For the first time since 2014, the team failed to reach the ACC Championship Game or the College Football Playoff. It also ended their streak of six consecutive conference titles, the then longest in the FBS.
Now, 15th-year head coach Dabo Swinney will have the difficult task of taking the Tigers back to the top of the college football world.
Defensive tackle Bryan Bresee is back this season. He missed most of last season with injury. He is currently listed as the No. 13 player is college football by ESPN. Even though he torn his ACL in just the fourth game of 2021, he still earned All-ACC Third Team honors, showing how dominant he is on defense.
With Bresee returning to Clemson, the defense should once again hold their own. But the offense presents its own questions.
With that being said, here is one other Clemson player who could be a game-changer in the 2022 football season.
Clemson Football Biggest X-Factor of the 2022 College Football Season
RB Will Shipley
Despite the disappointing 2021 season, there were some bright spots for Clemson. Perhaps the biggest one was Will Shipley. The Tigers running back had 149 carries for 739 yards and 11 touchdowns,. He also had 16 receptions for 116 yards. Shipley averaged 27.1 yards on 14 kickoff returns as well.
Shipley earned All-ACC Academic Team honors, the first true freshman for the Tigers to receive the honor since Trevor Lawrence. He received recognition for the Second-team Freshman All-American by The Athletic and fourth-team All-ACC by Phil Steele.
His 11 scores on the season also represented the second-best mark by a Clemson true freshman since Travis Etienne in 2017. Etienne became a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
For 2022, Shipley is on the watch lists for multiple awards, including the Paul Hornung Award, given to the most versatile player in college football. In addition to his rushing and receiving abilities, he had a two-yard passing touchdown versus then-No. 10 Wake Forest. His ability to produce yards in many ways could be a key element of the Tigers’ offense. Because of that, opponents’ defense units will have trouble in identifying how Clemson will attack.
Will Shipley epitomizes what Clemson football is all abouthttps://t.co/hGhtEfcdm2
— Rubbing The Rock (@RubbingTheRock) August 9, 2022
His success goes back to his high school years. As a five-star recruit by 247Sports, Shipley rushed for 4,173 yards on 503 attempts in just three years. He had 80 touchdowns for his team, with 55 rushing, 23 receiving and even two on defense. ESPN eventually named him the second-best running back in the country and No. 21 player in the nation overall.
Justyn Ross was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs, leaving more play-making opportunities. Shipley should have a bigger role on Swinney’s passing scheme. Ross left the program as fifth all-time in career receiving touchdowns with 20. With the sophomore being a dual-threat player, it would not be a surprise if he is targeted even more.
Clemson will have Brandon Streeter as its full-time offensive coordinator for the first time this season. With a new play caller, it might be safe to utilize someone who has already proven he can be efficient. And that guy can be Shipley in 2022.
Overall, Shipley has a great chance of having a breakout year for Clemson. His short but impactful college experience could be essential to the rebuilding Tigers. Swinney will likely trust his running back on big moments of the season.