Clemson is No. 2 in the preseason top 25 rankings. What are the five things that matter about the 2016 Tigers?
Just how jacked up are the Tigers?
The backfield is loaded, the offense is going to be fantastic, the defense will be retooled, and the coaching staff is in place. Can Clemson go one step further this season after coming so close to a dream campaign last year?
They went through a very focused, very business-like spring session, and this summer they’ve looked even more the part of a program with the right mindset to get back on the field and be dominant.
Look out. There will be times when opponents don’t have a prayer because …
The skill players are peerless
Obviously, Deshaun Watson is a superstar who might be the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, and he’s only going to look better with WR Mike Williams returning from a scary injury to work on the other side of Artavis Scott. Hunter Renfro is a solid No. 3 target, tight end Jordan Leggett should have a solid year, and Wayne Gallman is a sure-thing 1,000-yard back.
You’re not even going to be in the discussion if your offense doesn’t show up ready to score 40 points or more.
The defensive line must replace stars … whatever
It was supposed to be the Clemson downfall last year. The front four had to undergo a total overhaul, but it didn’t turn out to matter as the defense got even better and stronger. The personnel losses aren’t nearly as bad this season, but it still hurts to lose Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd after their all-star seasons. Even so, the pass rush should be unstoppable again as the factory keeps on cranking out the stud linemen.
So what’s the problem?
There isn’t one, but if it’s okay to nitpick, the secondary could use a little work after losing three starters, and the special teams have to be tighter. The kicking game wasn’t up to the high-level snuff of the rest of the team, and the returners didn’t do enough. This was a key focus this offseason, and now it should be a plus.
What’s going to happen?
The team will be better than the final record.
The Tigers will be stunned in the ACC opener against a Georgia Tech offense that gets rolling early at home – Clemson will get just a few days to prepare for the Thursday game. They’ll beat Louisville and rip through the rest of the slate, and they’ll beat South Carolina, but they’ll drop the date at Florida State to finish 10-2 and miss out on a second straight ACC title.
And then they’ll go on to win their bowl game by a bazillion.