#16 Clemson Football 2014 Preview

Clemson Tigers

Overall Rank: #16
#2 ACC

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Clemson reached the Orange Bowl last season and stuck it to Ohio State’s defense, scoring 40 points against the Buckeyes. While the Clemson offense will always get the headlines, the defense is getting better and better. In fact, in 2014 it will be the defense that keeps the Tigers in the mix for an ACC title. If the new faces on offense are ready to fill some big shoes, this could be a special season for Clemson.

2013 Record: 11-2, 7-1
2013 Bowl: Orange Bowl vs. Ohio State (W 40-35)
Coach: Dabo Swinney (51-23 at Clemson, 51-23 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Chad Morris
Defensive Coordinator: Brent Venables

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Zac Brooks, RB, 246 yards
Passing: Cole Stoudt, QB, 415 yards
Receiving: Adam Humphries, WR, 483 yards
Tackles: Stephone Anthony, LB, 131
Sacks: Vic Beasley, DE, 13.0
Interceptions: Jayron Kearse, S, 4

Other Key Returnees: WR Adam Humphries, TE Jordan Leggett, DL Grady Jarrett, S Robert Smith, DL Corey Crawford, DL Josh Watson, P Bradley Pinion

Key Losses: RB Roderick McDowell, QB Tajh Boyd, WR Sammy Watkins, WR Martavis Bryant, OL Brandon Thomas, LB Spencer Shuey, LB Quandon Christian, CB Bashaud Breeland, K Chandler Cantazaro

There may not be a more productive, experienced and fearsome front four in all of college football. The Tigers return their entire two-deep to the defensive line which helped the team record nearly three sacks per game. End Vic Beasley totaled 13.0 sacks and 23.0 tackles-for-loss in 2013 and will again lead the way. Corey Crawford, Shaq Lawson and Tavaris Barnes will spend plenty of time in the opponent’s backfield. Senior tackles Grady Jarrett, Josh Watson and DeShawn Williams and junior D.J. Reader will rotate in the middle of the line. Having that much depth will allow Coach Dabo Swinney to keep his entire line fresh throughout a game and throughout the season. Linebacker Stephone Anthony tallied 131 tackles and will be the leader of the back seven. He is no stranger to adding to the team’s sack total, but he can also drop back and help out in coverage as needed. And this group will need some help in the secondary. Former safety Travis Blanks is expected to spend time at linebacker and that leaves Robert Smith as the lone returning starter.

It is not fair to call the Clemson offense a weakness, but this team lost star power all over that side of the ball. Tajh Boyd threw for 3,851 yards and 34 touchdowns during his final season with the Tigers. Cole Stoudt was Boyd’s backup last season and won the battle for the starting job in the spring. He completed 47-of-59 passes in 2013 for 415 yards and five touchdowns. If Stoudt should falter, highly recruited freshman Deshaun Watson will be waiting in the wings. Whether or not Watson plays at all this year, he is expected to be the starter in 2015. The losses continue in the wide receiver corps. Sammy Watkins had a magnificent career with Clemson and last season caught 101 passes for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns. Also gone is Martavis Bryant who totaled 828 yards and seven touchdowns. It is now time for new faces to emerge. Mike Williams is a promising sophomore and freshmen Demarre Kitt, Kyrin Priester and Artavis Scott are all capable of cracking the regular rotation. Adam Humphries is a fine possession receiver and Charone Peake has experience if he can stay healthy, but Clemson needs more explosive playmakers too. At running back, Roderick McDowell is gone after rushing for 1,025 yards and five touchdowns. That leaves Zac Brooks as the team’s top returning rusher and he only carried the ball 48 times. The hopes are high for freshman Wayne Gallman, but once again the unit is high on potential and low on experience.

The Bottom Line:
Clemson needs to come out of the gate firing on all cylinders. Bookending a home game in week two against South Carolina State are trips to Georgia and Florida State. There is no time to wait for the offense to come around with two huge games so early in the season. A few games later they host Louisville in what could be the game that decides who, with a little luck, could catch the Seminoles. If Clemson does lose to Florida State, they cannot afford to lose to Louisville too or hopes of an ACC title would be gone.

Projected Bowl: Orange Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 174.6 (56th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 333.1 (9, 1)
Total Offense: 507.7 (10, 2)
Scoring Offense: 40.2 (8, 2)
Rushing Defense: 155.7 (52, 8)
Pass Defense: 201.0 (16, 3)
Total Defense: 356.7 (25, 3)
Scoring Defense: 22.2 (24, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.46 (29, 3)
Sacks: 2.92 (13, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 2.69 (102, 12)

Madness 2015 NFL Draft Rankings:
#9 Vic Beasley

Madness 2014 Recruit Rankings:
#34 Deshaun Watson
#95 Artavis Scott
#96 Korie Rogers
#99 Trevion Thompson
#158 Adam Choice
#173 Demarre Kitt


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