2016 Clemson Tigers Football Preview

QB Deshaun Watson threw for 4,104 yards and rushed for 1,105 in 2015.
QB Deshaun Watson threw for 4,104 yards and rushed for 1,105 in 2015.

Clemson Tigers

Head Coach: Dabo Swinney
2015 Record: 14-1
2015 Bowl: 45-40 Loss to Alabama In National Championship Game
2016 Returning Starters: 8 Offense, 3 Defense

Betting Odds:
Odds to win 2017 Championship Game: +725
Odds to win 2016 ACC Championship: +172
Regular Season over/under: 10.5 wins

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Offense

The Clemson Tigers came up just short of a National Championship in 2015, losing by five points to Alabama in the title game. Their offensive attack is about as good as any, and Clemson averaged 38.5 points and 514 yards per game last season. QB Deshaun Watson threw for 4,104 yards and rushed for an additional 1,105 while winning the Heisman trophy. He had 478 total yards in the loss to the Crimson Tide.

In the backfield the Tigers have junior Wayne Gallman, who rushed for 1,527 yards last season. Adam Choice will also return to the fold after having sustained a knee injury which caused him to miss all of last season. At WR, the Tigers will look to All-ACC Preseason selection Mike Williams, who had 1,000 yards in 2014, but suffered a broken neck in the opening game last season.

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Williams is a strong weapon and he will open things up for other options in the Tigers’ attack, especially WR Hunter Renfrew and Artavis Scott. The OL has some turnover, but C Jay Guillermo and RG Tyrone Crowder are returning starters and Mitch Hyatt is a very good LT. Guillermo is a powerful 6’3” 325, and can hold his own in the center. At TE, the Tigers return Jordan Leggett, who caught eight TD passes last season.

As good as Clemson’s offense was last season, it should probably be only stronger still with Watson returning and being one of the elite players in all of the NCAA. Gallman’s return cannot be understated, and Williams was at one point a premier player before sustaining a freakish injury to his neck. Even if banking on the return of players is an inexact science, there is nothing inexact about just how good Watson is, and there is plenty of talent around him to take it to the next level to put Clemson knocking on the door of a national title again.

Defense

The Tigers had the pantry raided in the NFL Draft, and now it is going to require a lot of younger players stepping into roles. The fact that most of them are top recruits and primed for just that, perhaps makes it less worrisome.

Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell will be thrust into the opportunity of making plays, getting sacks. Christian Wilkins, Carlos Watkins and Dexter Lawrence all should be effective run-stoppers, and this is not a defense that will be anything like porous.

Clemson allowed just 21.7 points per game last season while allowing just 313 yards per game. The backfield is going to have a lot of turnover with three of its starters gone to the NFL, but Cordres Tankersley is a strong CB and both FS Jadar Johnson and SS Van Smith put together a strong secondary that should be comparable to last year’s unit which held opponents to just 187.7 receiving yards per game, ranking No. 17 in the nation.

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Special Teams

K Greg Huegel hit 27 of 32 FGA last season. Andy Teasdall averaged 39.5 yards per punt attempt, but he will likely be the punter this season, anyway.

Schedule

Clemson opens the season against Auburn on Sept. 3, and will begin conference play Sept. 22 at Georgia Tech. Clemson faces Florida State on Oct. 29 in Tallahassee.

Outlook

Clemson was about as close as it could have been to a title last year, and it indeed finds right there again with the second most-favorable odds at 5dimes, listing Clemson at +725 to win the National title. The schedule does not do them a lot of favors this season, but it does end softly with Wake Forest and South Carolina.

Clemson will be there as they always are, and it should be exciting to see what Watson can do—and whether or not this will be his final collegiate season.

Prediction: 11 wins

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