#2 Clemson Football 2016 Preview

Clemson Tigers
Overall Rank: #2
#1 ACC
Clemson has been a very strong and consistent program over the last few years under head coach Dabo Swinney. The 2015 season took things to another level as the Tigers wrestled the ACC title from Florida State and went 14-0 before falling to Alabama 45-40 in the national championship game. Heisman Trophy frontrunner Deshaun Watson is back to lead a very explosive offense that will put Clemson right back in the college football playoff conversation this fall.
2015 Record: 14-1, 8-0
2015 Bowl: Orange Bowl vs. Oklahoma (W 37-17), National Championship Gam vs. Alabama (L 40-45)
Coach: Dabo Swinney (75-27 at Clemson, 75-27 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tony Elliott, Jeff Scott
Defensive Coordinator: Brent Venables
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Wayne Gallman, RB, 1,527 yards
Passing: Deshaun Watson, QB, 4,104 yards
Receiving: Artavis Scott, WR, 901 yards
Tackles: Ben Boulware, LB, 82
Sacks: Ben Boulware, LB, 3.5; Carlos Watkins, DT, 3.5
Interceptions: Cordrea Tankersley, CB, 5
Other Key Returnees: WR Deon Cain, TE Jordan Leggett, WR Hunter Renfrow, OL Jay Guillermo, OL Mitch Hyatt, LB Dorian O’Daniel, K Greg Huegel
Key Losses: WR Charone Peake, OL Eric MacClain, OL Joe Gore, DE Shaq Lawson, DE Kevin Dodd, LB BJ Goodson, CB Mackensie Alexander, CB Jayron Kearse, S TJ Green
Deshaun Watson is such a lethal passer and runner at quarterback that he is almost impossible to slow down completely over the course of 60 minutes. Watson was the first player in FBS history to throw for over 4,000 yards and run for over 1,000 yards in a season and will be looking for more of the same in 2016. Wayne Gallman is back at running back after rushing for over 1,500 yards. He stepped up big during the ACC Championship game and the CFP semifinal wins over North Carolina and Oklahoma, respectively. Mike Williams is back and healthy at wide receiver and will lead a group of receivers that just keep coming at you in waves. Williams and Artavis Scott should both have well over 1,000 receiving yards if they stay healthy. Sophomore left tackle Mitch Hyatt will lead an offensive line that has the potential to once again be extremely dominant in 2016.
The defense is going to have to be rebuilt as Shaq Lawson, Kevin Dodd and Mackensie Alexander all moved on to the NFL. Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables and the rest of defensive staff will have some work to do, but there is talent still around this fall for Clemson. Senior linebacker Ben Boulware is the leading returning tackler for the Tigers with 82 from last season and he is going to have to lead the way for the rest of the defensive unit. Carlos Watkins and Christian Wilkins are going to be vital players along the defensive line that will need to generate a pass rush on a consistent basis. Cordrea Tankersley is the top playmaker in a secondary that will be tested early and often by opposing offensive coordinators.
The Bottom Line:
Clemson’s season starts off with a dicey road trip to Auburn and Jordan Hare Stadium will have electric atmosphere for that game. This is where the experienced offense and having the best player on the field in Watson will be the difference in that matchup. A Thursday night road trip to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech is never easy, but the Tigers should take care of business. Louisville visits on October 1st in what should be the type of street fight type of game that will prepare Clemson very well for the trip to Tallahassee on October 29th. The Florida State game has become one of the best matchups in the country on an annual basis. This year should not be any different as both teams are national title contenders and both teams could make the playoffs even with a close loss in this game. The key for the Tigers will be to take care of the football and not give the Seminoles too many short field opportunities and get the game into the fourth quarter with a chance for Watson to win it late. Overall, look for Clemson once again win ten plus games and find a way back to the College Football Playoff in 2016.
Projected Bowl: Playoffs / Fiesta Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 223.0 (21st in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 291.5 (23, 1)
Total Offense: 514.5 (11, 1)
Scoring Offense: 38.5 (16, 2)
Rushing Defense: 125.3 (18, 3)
Pass Defense: 187.7 (17, 2)
Total Defense: 313.0 (10, 2)
Scoring Defense: 21.7 (24, 3)
Turnover Margin: -0.13 (83, 11)
Sacks: 3.20 (4, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.20 (18, 2)
Madness 2017 NFL Draft Rankings:
#1 Deshaun Watson
#28 Mike Williams
#34 Cordea Tankersley
#69 Jordan Leggett
#77 Caelos Watkins
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#3 Dexter Lawrence
#22 Rahshaun Smith
#55 Tavien Feaster
#68 Trayvon Mullen
#74 Tre Lamar
#93 Cornell Powell