Latest announcement means Clemson’s entire starting defense set to return next season
There will be two strong defenses on the field at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Sept. 4 when Georgia meets Clemson to open the 2021 season.
A weekend announcement from All-ACC safety Nolan Turner means that Clemson will return all 11 starters on defense from the 2020 season. The Tigers also boast 21 total defensive players who started at least 1 game return, including 18 who started multiple games, according to former SID Tim Bourret. It is three more returning starters than Clemson has ever had, and the last time the Tigers even had that many was 2018. They also had that many in 2009.
Clemson ranked No. 15 in the country in total defense in the 2020 season as it allowed an average of 326.8 yards per game.
The Tigers will aim for a seventh straight ACC title and trip to the College Football Playoffs. They won national championships for the 2016 and 2018 seasons.
Turner, who plays free safety, and LB James Skalski, who was ejected from the Sugar Bowl loss to Ohio State for targeting, are among the players taking advantage of the NCAA allowing an extra year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Turner led Clemson this past season with three interceptions and was second with 66 tackles. He was named second-team All-ACC and was also all-conference by the Associated Press. In the 2019 national semifinal against Ohio State, he made an end zone interception late in the game to ice the victory.
Georgia, by comparison, is expected to return five starters following all of the underclassmen announcing their plans to either return or move on to the NFL.