Despite being on the wrong end of blowout losses in their last two games in the College Football Playoff, Clemson is still one of the favorites to win a national title in 2021.
The Tigers have won national championships in two of the past five season’s and if they are to win a third in the CFP era, it will have to be without two of the best players in program history as Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne are now playing on Sundays in the NFL.
However, Clemson has plenty of talent returning in 2021, despite losing four skill guys to the NFL Draft, and today we look at three reasons why the Tigers could be the last team standing at end of the coming season.
Clemson returns all but two starters from last seasons defense and the argument can be made that Brent Venables unit might be stronger without Mike Jones Jr and Derion Kendrick.
While Kendrick is without question talented, he stayed in the doghouse more than he stayed out of it in 2020. His departure just means more playing time for former five-star Fred Jones and Sheridan Jones, who many are expecting to take a big step forward this year.
However, the strength of this defense lies in the front four. With Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee no longer inexperienced freshman, and Tyler Davis fully healthy, this defensive line should be dominant. Add in a laser-focused Xavier Thomas, a returning Justin Foster, as well as KJ Henry and you have a group that could rival the infamous Power Rangers.
Skill Position Depth
Make no mistake, Amari Rodgers and Cornell Powell were lights out for the Tigers in 2020. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the teams most talented receivers missed most, if not all of last season.
Justyn Ross never played a down, Joseph Nagata was never fully healthy and never made an impact, and Frank Ladson Jr was only healthy for the first few weeks and played like an inconsistent underclassmen at times when he was healthy.
All three are expected back at 100% in 2021, giving DJ Uiagalelei a multitude of experienced targets to spread the ball around to in the passing game. Add in Beaux Collins and Dacari Collins, two highly touted freshman, and this has the makings of one of the most explosive passing games in the country.
Add in a stable of running backs that is as deep as any across the nation and the sky is the limit.
The way the season ended against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl last season has left a sour taste in the mouth of these players. The Tigers were flat out whipped at the point of attack, on both sides of the ball, and listening to the players during the spring that is something these guys are not interested in having happen again.
The Buckeyes had their way with the Tigers in the 49-28 loss in the semifinal round of last seasons CFP. It was an eye-opening and humbling experience for this team, particularly for some of the younger guys. If there is one thing fans do not have to worry about with the 2021 team, that is complacency. This team is highly motivated.