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Jul. 25, 2014 - DJ Boyer

2014 Fierce 40 Previews: #22 Clemson

#22 Clemson Tigers


2013 Recap:

11-2 is a fantastic year when you consider the only two losses suffered by this team were against top 10 overall teams, National Champions Florida State and South Carolina.



The Tigers have a cohesive coaching staff that has been together for some time and Dabo Sweeney is now locked up long-term after five successful years at the helm. This team just needs to find a way to get by Florida State, and if they can, big things await.



Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

Tajh Boyd was a four year starter and threw for over 11,000 yards so to say that the Tigers would be concerned about replacing him is a vast understatement. Cole Stoudt has had to step in before and the senior has played well when called upon. Stoudt will start the season as the quarterback but waiting in the wings is one of the top quarterback prospects in the country in true freshman DeShaun Watson. Clemson has to feel good about the state of affairs at quarterback and it will lesson the blow of the losing the most successful quarterback in school history. Replacing Boyd is not the only important cog in the offense the Tigers have to figure out on how to replace. Rodrick McDowell played well registering 1,100 yards running the football. While there is talent toting the rock, the stable is not as strong as their quarterbacks. This may be a running back by committee with D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks leading the way for Clemson.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A


Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

It seems like Clemson is doing nothing except for replacing key components on offense and the biggest of all is wide receiver Sammy Watkins, a top 10 pick of the Buffalo Bills. Talented wide receiver Martavis Bryant also left early and though he registered only 42 catches he had nearly 20 YPC and was a big play machine. Mike Williams had 20 catches as a freshman and he is the next in line to be the top target at Clemson. Williams shows a ton of promise and is currently rated as a 2nd round prospect for 2017. Senior Adam Humphries is the only returning starter and he posted 41 catches for 483 yards a season ago, good for third on the team. Clemson has another legitimate prospect in junior tight end Stanton Seckinger who is rated as a 5th round pick for 2016.  The wide receivers as a unit are still in the top half of the conference, even though there are so many catches and yards of production they need to replace from just a season ago.

Best Draft Prospect: Mike Williams WR 2nd Round 2017.


Offensive Line:

The offensive line for Clemson is a great example of a unit that seems to play well together without any standout individuals but there is a lot of cohesiveness with the three returning starters coming back from last season. Guard David Beasley seems to be the best prospect at this time, although a fringe prospect that we currently have ranked as an undrafted free agent for the 2015 draft. The tackles are new with Shaq Anthony leading the charge along with fellow junior offensive tackle Isaiah Battle. One thing very respectable about the line is they are a nice blend of run blockers and pass protectors. In last year's recruiting class, six of the top ten recruits for the team were along the offensive and defensive lines. It looks like Clemson is prepared to fight for future ACC titles in the trenches.

Best Draft Prospect: David Beasley OG UFA 2015.



Defensive Line:

When people think about the Clemson football squad from 2013 the first thought is usually going to be something involving the offensive with Tajh Boyd or Sammy Watkins. When you break down the way Clemson won their 11 games you realize they did it more on the defensive side of the football. Corey Crawford and Vic Beasley formed what may have been the best 1-2 defensive end combo in the nation. Beasley will play linebacker in some formations and looks like a top ten overall pick for the upcoming draft and we are listing him in the linebacker section, but in part to show what a great prospect Corey Crawford is as well. Beasley had 44 tackles with half of them (23) coming for loss with 13 sacks while Crawford had 52 stops with 10.5 tackles for loss with 3 sacks. The talent doesn't stop there as defensive tackle Grady Jarrett is a nice prospect himself and he is currently like Crawford, ranked as a 4th round prospect for the upcoming season. DeShawn Williams will play the other defensive tackle spot meaning all four starters up front are seniors.

Best Draft Prospect: Corey Crawford DE 4th Round 2015.



Stephone Anthony had an amazing 131 tackles and the leader of a defense that actually finished a very respectable 25th overall in the nation for 2013. More impressive is that players backing up Anthony would start at about 75% of the other colleges around the country, as the roster is that deep in the front seven. Anthony is a mid round prospect for 2015 and strong side linebacker Travis Blanks will get more action due to teams trying to avoid the middle and Anthony. Blanks is the player Clemson uses to cover opposing tight ends and in coverage for players coming out of the backfield, and he does his job well. Tony Steward will be on the other side and he is the linebacker that we will see turned loose more often, in an attempt to get pressure on the quarterback. This is a very deep squad which will cause opposing offenses to alter game plans.

Best Draft Prospect: Vic Beasley LB/DE 1st Round 2015.



The secondary is the one place on this football team where some players were lost and there are questions that have arisen going into the season as a result. Martin Jenkins will be the lone returning starter as he started about half of the games for Clemson at cornerback opposite Bashaud Breeland, a player who left after his junior season for the NFL. Clemson has a pair of freshman that are battling it out to be the other cornerback starter. It doesn't matter who wins because Clemson employs many packages with three corners and the losing player in this battle figures to just be the nickel corner in most packages. We could see Mackenzie Alexander, Marcus Edmund step up and play prominent roles in the secondary.

The safeties have shown a propensity to give up the big play or bite on play action. I expect teams to go after Robert Smith and the other members in the back often this season, making the pass rush even more important.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A.


Special Teams:

Clemson's previous kicker Chandler Catanzaro was a gem and probably responsible for swinging a game or two towards Clemson every year, so kicker will be a question mark this year. Punter Bradley Pinion could prime himself as a possible punting prospect for 2016 with another big season. The return game is another area where the loss of Sammy Watkins will be felt and the starter(s) have yet to be set.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A



Clemson will start at Georgia like last year and that will be a huge game for a pair of top flight clubs looking to replace four year starting quarterbacks. Florida State comes early this season and the game is in Tallahassee. Georgia Tech is a tough road game in November before the South Carolina game which is a home contest for 2014. This is a solid schedule but not as brutal as some of their conference counterparts.


Draft Outlook:

Vic Beasley looked like he would have been a 1st rounder had he declared a season ago. He could be the first big pass rusher off the board in this draft. Crawford and Jarrett will be big picks off the defensive line and the development of receiver Mike Williams will be tracked closely.


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