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Impact Players: Stars shine in Clemson’s latest game

Emily Lady, staff
Ray-Ray McCloud catches a touchdown pass against South Carolina State on Saturday. 

The 2016 Clemson Tigers are teeming with talent. Of course, the notable names are the driving forces of the team, but the impact players who do not receive quite as much publicity are, in some ways, just as important. So far this season, there have been three players especially who have fit that description, and these burgeoning stars have proved that they have what it takes to have longstanding success as Tigers. 

True freshman defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence is already making a major impact in his first month of game experience at the college level. A freakish athlete, at 6-5, 340 pounds, Lawrence is an imposing force on the field and an amazing athlete. A constant threat in the backfield, it only took Lawrence one game to earn himself a spot in the starting lineup. With three tackles for loss in his first two games, Lawrence fully displayed his tenacity and pass-rushing acumen. With a natural skillset that many NFL defensive tackles only wish that they had, Lawrence is primed to be an impact player for as long as he is wearing orange and regalia.

Despite his well-publicized punt return blunder, sophomore wide receiver/return man Ray-Ray McCloud has made an abundance of electrifying plays thus far this season. Highly touted coming out of high school, McCloud was assimilated into Clemson’s high-flying offense last season and was expected to contribute in a major way heading into this season. Through the first few games, he has done just that, serving as the Tigers’ leading receiver in their second game of the season, a home matchup with Troy, as he collected 86 yards on seven receptions. 

However, McCloud has made the most noise in the returning department, making something out of virtually nothing on several different occasions, including the punt return that ended in the ill-advised premature drop at the goal line versus Troy. McCloud could serve as Clemson’s secret weapon as the season rolls along, as his impressive speed and play-making ability are rare commodities.

There were several questions surrounding the Clemson secondary entering this season, including how sophomore safety Van Smith would fare during his first season in the starting lineup. Smith has quickly dispelled any worries surrounding himself by his early-season play. Smith plays all over the field, covering a lot of ground and making a lot of noise with his frenetic playing style. An early enrollee in January of 2015, Smith has had extra time to learn defensive coordinator Brent Venables’s game plan, and it shows. With two tackles for loss in the first two games, an impressive number for a young safety, Smith displayed his ability to create disruption in the backfield. With a keen eye for the ball, Smith is a well-rounded defensive back and a pivotal impact player.

With these three young, skilled players, Clemson’s future is in good hands. Although Clemson boasts plenty of premier talent, impact players such as these three are what will ultimately define the overall success of the 2016 team. 

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