#1 Clemson Football 2019 Preview

Clemson Tigers
Overall Rank: #1
#1 ACC
 Clemson Logo
Clemson was the first team in modern college football history to run the table by winning 15 games and they did it in very impressive fashion en route to winning the College Football Playoff National Championship. The Tigers absolutely dismantled the Alabama Crimson Tide by a score of 44-16, handing Nick Saban a very rare blowout loss to deal with in the offseason. Clemson also lived rent free in the heads of the SEC Network and fans of Alabama all offseason as well as a result of that dominating performance.
2018 Record: 15-0, 8-0
2018 Bowl: Cotton Bowl vs. Notre Dame (30-3 W), CFP National Title vs. Alabama (44-16 W)
Coach: Dabo Swinney (116-30 at Clemson, 116-30 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tony Elliott, Jeff Scott
Defensive Coordinator: Brett Venables
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Travis Etienne, RB, 1,658yards
Passing: Trevor Lawrence, QB, 3,280 yards
Receiving: Tee Higgins, WR, 936 yards
Tackles: Isaiah Simmons, OLB, 89
Sacks: Xavier Thomas, DE, 3.5
Interceptions: A.J. Terrell, CB, 3
Other Key Returnees:  WR Justyn Ross, WR Amari Rodgers, LG John Simpson, C Sean Pollard, RG Gage Cervenka, RT Tremayne Anchrum, S Tanner Muse, S K’von Wallace, QB Chase Brice, RB Lynn J-Dixon
Key Losses:  DT Christian Wilkins, DE Clelin Farrell, OT Mitch Hyatt, DL Austin Bryant, DT Dexter Lawrence, CB Trayvon Mullen, LB Tre Lamar, C Justin Falcinelli, WR Hunter Renfrow, LB Kendall Joseph, RB Tavien Feaster, RB Adam Choice
There are going to be a lot of sleepless nights for opposing defensive coordinators that have to game plan against this Clemson offense as it is loaded with skill. Trevor Lawrence will look to be even better in 2019 after taking over for Kelly Bryant after game four as the starter at quarterback. Lawrence threw for 3,280 yards, 30 touchdown passes, and limited the interceptions to just four as a freshman. Travis Etienne is back at running back and he is a legitimate threat to break the 2,000-yard mark in 2019 even if he doesn’t play a lot late in blowout games. The receiving corps is just lethal as Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers are all back but the most dangerous of the group could very well be freshman Joseph Ngata, who is built like a man amongst boys. The offensive line should be pretty good as the Tigers will be led by John Simpson, Gabe Cervenka and Sean Pollard. If this unit can stay healthy, it be willing a big bonus for Clemson in 2019.
There will be some reloading to do for defensive coordinator Brett Venables, especially along the defensive line with the loss of Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant, and Dexter Lawrence to the NFL Draft. Xavier Thomas should be the next great pass rusher for the Tigers as he collected 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in a backup role as a freshman last season. Isaiah Simmons is the most experienced returning linebacker by far as he had played the most defensive snaps in 2018 and collected 89 tackles as well. James Skalski is going to be a key player at inside linebacker since the Tigers did lose Shaq Smith to Maryland. The secondary should continue to get even better in 2019 as three starters return, led by K’Von Wallace and Tanner Muse at safety and A.J. Terrell at cornerback. They are all quality playmakers that will buy the inexperienced front seven time to come together. The kicking game could get a little interesting as Clemson does have to replace Greg Heugel. B.T. Potter is the projected starter but keep an eye on this position battle early on in the season as Steven Sawicki will be hot on his heels. Will Spiers will be looking to capitalize upon a strong performance punting the football in the national championship game after he had an up and down season as a whole in 2018.
The Bottom Line:
Clemson has a schedule that sets up beautifully as they only have one difficult road game at Syracuse and a tough non-conference rematch with Texas A&M. The likelihood of the Tigers being severely tested after September 14th at the Carrier Dome is pretty slim. Offensively, this team is primed to improve upon their 44.3 point per game scoring average and threaten to break 50 points per game. If the defensive line can get up to speed quickly you can expect the Tigers to win games by an average of 30 points per game. The only way Clemson will lose in the regular season is if they beat themselves with a ton of turnovers and the defense has issues against Kellen Mond or Tommy DeVito in weeks two or three. Expect the Tigers to be in the College Football Playoff once again and very likely will be the number one national seed.
Projected Bowl: Peach Bowl (CFP Playoff)
2018 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 248.2(10th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 279.0 (23, 2)
Total Offense: 527.2 (3, 1)
Scoring Offense: 44.3 (4, 1)
Rushing Defense: 96.3 (4, 1)
Pass Defense: 189.6 (24, 3)
Total Defense: 285.9 (5, 2)
Scoring Defense: 13.1 (1, 1)
Turnover Margin: +0.47 (29, 4)
Sacks: 3.60 (2, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.13 (12, 3)
Madness 2020 NFL Draft Rankings:
#34 Tee Higgins
#48 Isaiah Simmons
Madness 2019 Recruit Rankings:
#19 Andrew Booth
#37 Frank Ladson Jr
#69 Joe Ngata
#101 Sheridan Jones
#108 William Putnam
#121 Tyler Davis
#179 Bryton Constantin
#189 Chez Mellusi
#196 Joseph Charleston