#2 Clemson 2018 Football Preview

Clemson Tigers
Overall Rank: #2
#1 ACC
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Clemson heads into the 2018 season as a team on a mission after a tough 24-6 loss to Alabama in the 2017 College Football Playoff Semifinals. The fact that a 12-win season that did not result in a national championship can be viewed as a small disappointment is crazy. However, it is a result of the tremendous consistency of the program put in place by head coach Dabo Swinney and his staff on a yearly basis.
2017 Record: 12-2, 7-1
2017 Bowl: CFP Playoffs Sugar Bowl vs. Alabama (6-24 L)
Coach: Dabo Swinney (21-7 at Clemson, 21-7 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tony Elliott, Jeff Scott
Defensive Coordinator: Brent Venables
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Travis Etienne, RB, 766 yards
Passing: Kelly Bryant, QB, 2,802 yards
Receiving: Hunter Renfrow, WR, 602 yards
Tackles: Kendall Joseph, OLB, 96
Sacks: Clelin Ferrell, DE, 9.5
Interceptions: Trayvon Mullen, CB, 3
Other Key Returnees: LT Mitch Hyatt, RG Sean Pollard, TE Milan Richard, RB Tavien Feaster, DT Dexter Lawrence, DT Christian Wilkins, DE Austin Bryant, MLB Tre Lamar, SS Tanner Muse, K Greg Heugel, P Will Spiers
Key Losses: LB Dorian O’Daniel, WR Deon Cain, WR Ray-Ray McCloud, OL Taylor Hearn, S Van Smith, DB Ryan Carter, DB Marcus Edmond
Kelly Bryant will head into the 2018 season as the starting quarterback for the Tigers, but the question is how long he will hold onto the job. The reason for this debate is that freshman Trevor Lawrence has the look and feel of a guy who could be another Deshaun Watson caliber of player at the position. Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster are back at running back and they should add a nice element of explosiveness in the running game to take the pressure off Bryant or Lawrence. Clemson should continue to have a strong wide receiver room as Hunter Renfrow is back for his senior season and has a great knack for making key catches at opportune times. Diondre Overton, Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers and Derion Kendrick should be able to make up for the lost production of Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud at wide receiver. The offensive line will be lead by left tackle Mitch Hyatt and, as a group, they need to grow from the Alabama game and reestablish a sense of dominance at the line of scrimmage when they play elite type of teams.
The defensive line came back intact, which quite frankly was the best news off the offseason for the Clemson football program. Defensive end Clelin Ferrell had 9.5 sacks to lead a defensive unit that averaged 3.29 sacks per game in 2017. Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins will cause also sorts of havoc at defensive tackle and out at the other defensive end Austin Bryant should be in a line for a huge senior season. Kendall Joseph is the leading returning tackler from 2017 with 96 at outside linebacker. Tre Lamar is back at middle linebacker and he will be looking to stay healthy all season and make a run at a 90-100 tackle season. Trayvon Mullen and Tanner Muse are returning starters in the secondary and will be very crucial to the Tigers success as a defense. The ability to cause more turnovers will set up the offense with great field position. Greg Huegel is healthy at kicker and that should help Clemson a great deal in close games at Texas A&M and at Florida State this season.
The Bottom Line:
Week two will revive the Dabo vs. Jimbo rivalry as Coach Swinney and Jimbo Fisher will lock horns as the Tigers and Aggies will meet in College Station. Trips to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest are a couple of early season trap games that could stress Clemson a little bit. NC State will visit the Tigers on October 20th as Ryan Finley is a dangerous quarterback for the Wolfpack that could cause that game to stay close for four quarters. The following week Clemson will head to Tallahassee to play Florida State which should be back to a top 20 type of team in year one under Willie Taggart. Boston College will host the Tigers on November 10th in what will also be a dangerous environment and the Eagles will look at the game as their Super Bowl. Overall, if the quarterback battle sorts itself and the offense can be just a little more explosive, the Tigers should be 12-1 and back in the College Football Playoffs in 2018.
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 194.1 (35th in nation, 4th in Conference)
Passing Offense: 235.5 (61, 8)
Total Offense: 429.6 (38, 5)
Scoring Offense: 33.3 (32, 3)
Rushing Defense: 114.9 (12, 1)
Pass Defense: 161.9 (4, 1)
Total Defense: 276.7 (4, 1)
Scoring Defense: 13.6 (2, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.29 (43, 6)
Sacks: 3.29 (5, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 2.21 (74, 6)
Madness 2019 NFL Draft Rankings:
#3        Dexter Lawrence
#7        Christian Wilkins
#9        Clelin Ferrell  
#30      Mitch Hyatt
#43      Austin Bryant
#71      Trayvon Mullen
Madness 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#1        Trevor Lawrence
#3        Xavier Thomas
#12      K.J. Henry
#15      Jackson Carman
#32      Derion Kendrick
#38      Justyn Ross
#54      Kyler McMichael
#80      Jordyn Adams
#115    Josh Belk
#117    Mario Goodrich
#151    Justin Mascoll