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By John Falduto

In a mid-December press conference, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said that some players are coming back for the 2023 season that were expected to turn pro, admitting that “they were some surprises to me.”

This led to tons of speculation among Clemson football fans, as there were several key players on the 2022 roster that very well could have gone either way. Dabo reiterated that he wanted his players to have the opportunity to announce their decisions for themselves, and in the past few days, several players have done just that.

Bryan Bresee, the former No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2020, announced that he will enter the 2023 NFL Draft following three seasons with Clemson. Bresee was named the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and was a First-Team All-ACC selection as a true freshman in 2020, and was named to the Third-Team All-ACC in 2021 despite tearing his ACL just four games into the season. Bresee battled through both injury and tragedy in 2022 with the loss of his 15-year-old sister to brain cancer mid-season and was named a Second-Team All-ACC selection. ESPN’s draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has Bresee as the No. 2 DT and No. 10 overall player in the 2023 NFL Draft.

K.J. Henry, a former 5-Star recruit out of high school, declared for the 2023 NFL Draft despite teasing a potential return to Clemson on social media. Henry was named All-ACC Second Team in 2022, and finished his 5-year Clemson career with 122 tackles (28 TFL’s), 13.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 11 pass break-ups.

While he never made an official announcement one way or another, WR Joseph Ngata accepted an invitation to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, a postseason all-star game for draft-eligible college players. Should Ngata play in the game on January 28th, he will not be eligible to return to Clemson for his fifth season.

Starters Jalyn Phillips and Sheridan Jones both announced their intentions to return for the 2023 season on Thursday. Phillips, a safety, finished with 74 tackles (2nd on the team), 4 pass breakups and one interception in 2022, while Jones finished with 27 tackles and a pass breakup at the cornerback position. The two will be anchors of a much more deep and more experienced DB group in 2023.

Hours later, DT Xavier Thomas announced his return for the 2023 season “to dominate, be the best defensive prospect in the country, and lead this team to another National Championship.” Thomas finished the 2022 season with 4 tackles (4 TFL’s), 2 sacks, and a forced fumble after being forced to three games by a foot injury in 2022.

On Friday afternoon, DT’s Tyler Davis and Ruke Orhorhoro both announced that they will also be returning for the 2023 season. Davis was named First-Team All-ACC in 2022, totaling 31 tackles (9.5 TFL’s) and 5.5 sacks on the year, while Orhorhoro finished the season with 23 tackles (8 TFL’s) and 4 sacks, and was named an All-ACC Honorable Mention.

Complete updated list of several potential Clemson draft prospects who have officially announced their 2023 plans


Declared for 2023 NFL Draft


Returning to Clemson for the 2023 season

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