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2015 Clemson Tigers Football Preview

 

Head Coach: Dabo Swinney – (7th year at Clemson and overall: 61-26)

2014 Record: 10-3 overall, 6-2 ACC

Bowl Result: Russell Athletic Bowl: 12/29/14 - Clemson 40, Oklahoma 6

 

After going two decades without winning 10 or more games in a season, Dabo Swinney has delivered four straight 10-plus win campaigns for the first time since the Tigers did so from 1987 to 1990.

Now, Clemson—which is 42-11 over the last four years—will look to stay amongst the nation’s best and contend for a College Football Playoff berth.

If the Tigers are going to do so, the talent that they’ve stockpiled in recent years will have to deliver as only 6 starters—4 on offense and 2 on defense—return. Additionally, the program will be without highly-regarded offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who moved on to take over struggling SMU.



Clemson apparelWhile the offense lost seven starters—including three on the offensive line, the attack—which will be co-coordinated by running backs coach Tony Elliott and wide receivers coach Jeff Scott—should resemble what we grew accustomed to seeing under the departed Morris as proven talent returns at the skill positions.

It’ll start with sophomore signal-caller Deshaun Watson. Watson, who is a dual-threat, suffered an injury plagued freshman year, but started five games and gave us a glimpse of his potential. He completed just under 70 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,466 yards and 14 scores while only being picked off twice.

Fellow sophomore Wayne Gallman, the team’s leading rusher in ’14 when he tallied 769 yards and four touchdowns, is back.

Watson should have plenty of options in the passing game, as 4 of the team’s top 5 receivers return. Sophomore Artavis Scott (76-965-8) and Mike Williams (57-1,030-6) were the top targets a season ago.

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Defensively, the Tigers were the nation’s top unit—at least statistically (16.7 ppg, 260.8 ypg)—in 2014, but they will now be forced to replace nine starters—including the entire defensive front that included the program’s all-time sack leader in Vic Beasley.
Juniors Shaq Lawson and Ben Boulware possess significant experience and can help lead the inexperienced unit. Lawson, a defensive end, had 11 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks as a sophomore after earning freshman all-American honors in his initial season. Boulware, who plays weakside linebacker, is the team’s leading returning tackler after registering 40 stops in 2014.

The secondary should be the strength, as sophomore corner Mackensie Alexander and junior safety Jayron Kearse are back in a unit that helped Clemson be second in the nation versus the pass last year.

The kicking game was solid last year and has the chance to be again. Punter Bradley Pinion, who declared for the NFL draft after averaging 42.6 yards per boot, will have to be replaced, but junior Andy Teasdall appears capable and will look to deliver the same type of consistency.

Senior Ammon Lakip connected on 21-of-28 field goals and was 6-of-10 from beyond 40 yards with a long of 49.

The Tigers will take on Wofford and Appalachian State in games one and two before venturing to Louisville for the conference opener—a key Atlantic division match-up with the Cardinals—on Thursday, September 17th.

Overall, the schedule sets up nicely as Clemson will play seven games in Death Valley—including contests against Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, and Florida State.

If some young and inexperienced pieces can step up, the Tigers could be in contention in what could very well be a three or four team ACC Atlantic Division Race.

 

By Thomas "Bubba" Rosenbaum
DFN Sports Senior College Football Correspondent

Check out all of the 2015 college football previews online through College Sports Fans.

 


 


 

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