It isn’t very often that a team goes 12-2 and fans are left with a bad taste in their mouth. Unfortunately, that was the case for the Clemson Tigers after the 2017 season. The Tigers were expected to take a step back after 2016, losing players like Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams, and Jordan Leggett to the NFL. However, QB Kelly Bryant and the rest of the 2017 Clemson team had something else in mind. The Tigers were able to cruise by most of their competition, with the exception of one hiccup against Syracuse. On October 13, 2017 Clemson fell to the Orange in the Carrier dome 27-24. This was their one loss until they reached postseason play.
One loss is enough to knock most teams out of the playoffs, but not Clemson. When a team plays with the consistency that the Tigers have, the voters give them the benefit of the doubt. And rightfully so. Unfortunately, the Tigers were rolled over in the first round of the College Football Playoff by the eventual 2017 National Champion – Alabama. They were close, yet so far away. A year that seemed to be a “rebuilding” year for head coach Dabo Swinney and his offense, was more than good enough for the Tigers to finish 1st in the ACC and get a bid to the Playoff. Now, let’s take a look ahead at what we can expect from Clemson this upcoming 2018 football season.
There may be a lot of unknowns going into the 2018 season, but the Clemson offense is not one of them. For years, the Tigers have been able to put together one of the top offenses in the nation. This year will not be any different. Although there may be some inexperience on the offensive line, the chains will definitely move. RBs Tavien Feaster and Travis Etienne will be able to pack a 1-2 punch. Both Etienne and Feaster are home-run threats, and could take it to the house at any moment.
Clemson has one of the best receiving corps in the nation. Sophomores Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers are both set to have breakout seasons. Either could end up being the next “big-name” receiver to come out of Clemson. Throw in guys like Diondre Overton, Trevion Thompson, and not to mention Hunter Renfrow, and the Tigers are absolutely stacked. Freshman Derion Kendrick and Justyn Ross will also be looking to make an immediate impact. Both were Top 50 recruits in nation for the 2018 class.
QB Future in good hands
Senior Kelly Bryant will be at the helm of the Clemson offense in 2018. However, you should fully expect to see Dabo try to get 5-star and #1 ranked recruit in the country, freshman Trevor Lawrence, as many reps as possible. Lawrence doesn’t quite have the athletic ability of Bryant, but his arm more than makes up for it. He might have one of the best deep-balls of any recruit in quite some time. Whether it be garbage minutes, or special packages, look for Lawrence to receive as many reps as possible. Once Bryant graduates, Trevor will be the man of the offense and will have very high expectations.
As good as the Clemson offense might be, their defense might be even better. Remember that impressive team that Clemson had just 2 years ago? Yeah, the same team that won the national title. Well, this Clemson defense looks to be EVEN BETTER. With a starting line of DE Clelin Ferrell, DE Austin Bryant, DT Christian Wilkins, and DT Dexter Lawrence, the Tigers look like an NFL team. That is no hyperbole. Each one of these players will be on an NFL roster either next year or the year after. Ferrell led the team with 9.5 sacks last year just by himself. Clemson has already reloaded on the D-line as freshman 5-star DEs KJ Henry and Xavier Thomas will be looking to crack the two-deep as soon as this year.
The linebacker position is returning most of their personal, with the exception of OLB Dorian O’Daniel. Kendall Joseph and Tre Lamar will likely step up, as their experience at the other 2 backer spots last season will be very useful. Look for sophomore OLB Isaiah Simmons or senior Jalen Williams to fill O’Daniel’s spot. Simmons might be the obvious choice, in order to get experience for the future. Both are likely to see plenty of burn though.
CB Trayvon Mullen and Safety Tanner Muse are the only two players in the Clemson secondary with plenty of game experience. CBs AJ Terrell and Mark Fields have gotten some play, but they will need to step it up this upcoming season. Otherwise, the secondary might be the only weakness of the Clemson defense. K’Von Wallace will start alongside Tanner Muse at the other safety spot, but depth does seem to be an issue, as well. Luckily, with such a talented defensive line, the secondary is bound to benefit from it.
It looks like the Tigers are going to continue the streak of reaching the college football playoff. With a team that looks to be better than last season, anything less would be pure disappointment. Kelly Bryant will take another step forward and continue to be the swiss-army knife of a QB that he is. Clemson will likely blowout Furman in the first game of the season, and give the backups plenty of PT before heading into Texas A&M in week 2. Whenever a discussion about possible national contender’s for 2018 occurs, it is impossible to not bring up Clemson. Watch out, Bama, Clemson is coming for revenge.