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2016 Fierce 40 Previews: #1 Clemson

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 26, 2016

#1 Clemson Tigers

2015 Recap:
We all know the story. Clemson lost in the National Title game 45-40 against Alabama but this was their only loss and they obviously won the ACC title. There was plenty of balance as Clemson had the #11 offense in America and the #10 defense.


Coaching:
Dabo Sweeney commands a lot of respect and he averages just under 11 wins a season at Clemson (75 victories in 7 years). Sweeney is one of the highest paid coaches in the land and the NFL has unsuccessfully tried to lure him away from Clemson. Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott run the offense while Marion Hobby runs the defense with Brent Venables. This may be the last year for Venables at Clemson because he is one of the hottest assistant coaching names at the NCAA level.


Offense

It all comes down to leadership at this level and with Deshaun Watson the Tigers have a proven leader who is one of the front runners for the Heisman Trophy. Last season Watson became the first FBS player ever to throw for over 4,000 yards in a season and rush for over 1,000 yards within the same season. Wayne Gallman came back to Clemson as he was a draft eligible sophomore following his 1,500 yard performance and really the unsung hero of the Clemson offense. So we know Clemson can run the football with Watson and Gallman and with Mike Williams and Artavis Scott there are plenty of targets to throw the ball to. Jordan Leggett at tight end is another player wqho returned to Clemson after having a legitimate shopt at being a high draft pick had he made himself eligible. As good as the offense is and all of the stars we have mentioned the best part of the offense has yet to be even mentioned...the offensive line. Clemson may have the best line at the FBS level led by Mitch Hyatt.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Deshaun Watson QB 1st Round 2017 (Early Declaration).

                                       Jordan Leggett TE 2nd/3rd Round 2017.


Defense

Clemson had a top 10 defense overall last season a year after losing Vic Beasley and eight other starters on the defensive side of the ball. Kevin Dodd and Shaq Lawson formed the best 1-2 combo in the country at defensive end but both have moved on to the NFL so Brett Venables has to reload again. Carlos Watkins will lead the interior defense and projects to be a fringe first round selection for 2017. Dexter Lawrence will also see time inside and was universally regarded as one of the top five recruits overall in the entire country. Austin Bryant will be the key along the line as he figures to have the most production along the line putting pressure on the quarterback after the Lawson and Dodd departures. Ben Boulware is the perfect leader at linebacker and is the bridge between the line and the secondary. Cordrea Tankersley is now the leader in the secondary and his uneven play leaves a few with some worries on defense. If Clemson fails to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback it could highlight the depleated secondary. There are plenty of playmakers but the secondary is largely untested.

Best Draft Prospects: Carlos Watkins DT 1st/2nd Round 2017.

                                      Cordrea Tankersley CB 3rd Round 2017.


Special Teams:

Greg Huegel was an unknown commodity thrust into the spotlight when the season began and he responded well. Clemson did well punting the football and more importantly with the coverage teams. Artavis Scott is not only a starting wide receiver but he will serve as the primary return man on punts and kickoffs.


Schedule:

Clemson should be able to handle Auburn to open the season even though it will be a road contest. We turn tyo the ACC where Clemson does face Florida State on the road October 29th. Clemson does not have North Carolina or Miami and overall have a favorable schedule.

Draft and Overall Outlook:

The overall outlook for Clemson is obviously very bright or we would not have them ranked #1 to start the season. The individual team talent on Clemson matches the overall talent and ranking for the team. Deshaun Watson will have a shot at not only being the top quarterback selected in 2017 (if he declares) but he could be the top overall pick as we know how high top flight quarterbacks tend to go.

DJ Boyer