Make no mistake, this is Dabo Swinney’s most complete Clemson team to date. If this team ever gets to take the field there is going to be elite-level talent everywhere.
It all starts with the quarterback and by all accounts Trevor Lawrence is just on another level as he enters his third year in the program. He is the best signal-caller in the nation, whether Justin Fields is playing or not.
Behind him in the backfield is only the most dynamic running back in the country. Coaches across the ACC had to let out a collective sigh of disgust when Travis Etienne decided to put off the NFL for another season.
The Tigers were already going to have a loaded, and deep stable of running backs. Etienne deciding to come back for one more year gives the Tigers be one of the better running back rooms college football has seen in recent years. If fall camp is any indication get ready to see a lot of Etienne and the running game this season.
The receiver position took a hit in the spring when it was discovered Justyn Ross would need surgery to correct a congenital condition and miss the entire season. However, his absence opens up a spot for one of the younger guys to take over on the boundary.
Heading into the opener, it is Joseph Ngata, Frank Ladson, and Amari Rodgers penciled in as the starters. All three missed significant time throughout fall camp giving the guys behind them plenty of reps. Look for Cornell Powell, Brannon Spector, and freshman EJ Williams to all make contributions as well.
Then there is Braden Galloway. This offense has missed a legitimate downfield threat at tight end since the departure of Jordan Leggett and Galloway finally gives Tony Elliott a much needed piece he can use to exploit the middle of the field. Something the Tigers haven’t done much of in recent seasons.
An offense is generally only as good as the big guys up front doing the protecting, and fortunately for Clemson this could very well be their best offensive line yet. Despite having to replace four starters up front, the coaching staff has done an excellent job getting these guys ready to play and the transition should be seamless.
If there is a concern on this team though, it’s the second string offensive line. A rash of injuries could mean trouble but unless that happens, the starters will just be depended on to play more snaps until the backups are ready.
Over on the defensive side, expect a return to what we had gotten accustomed to seeing before last season. The Tigers now have the personnel to move back to a traditional 4-3 look and should once again feature a dominant defensive front.
Even without Xavier Thomas this team has a number of guys capable of getting after the quarterback. Justin Foster, KJ Henry, and freshman sensation Myles Murphy will give opposing defensive coordinators fits.
The back seven should be as good as its ever been. The linebackers are a little leaner, so they should be quicker and the secondary is deep and loaded with talent. There cold be as many as five or six corners ready to contribute this season.
If this team doesn’t get a shot at playing it will be a travesty. For the players, coaches, and fans alike. No kid should have their final seasons taken from them. Especially when playing on a team as loaded as this one.