Today marks the first installment of a series in which we take a preseason look at each of the Tigers 2021 opponents.
The Tigers begin the 2021 season jumping straight in to the deep end as they take on Georgia and will do so while replacing some key offensive stars.
As Clemson renews their rivalry with the Bulldogs in the 2021 Duke’s Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte they will be looking fill some huge shoes in former players quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne, and wide receivers Amari Rodgers and Cornell Powell.
Those four players made up 71% of Clemson’s offensive productions in 2020 and had 61.3% of the Tigers touchdowns last season. So, to say they are losing a huge chunk of the offense would be an understatement.
Make no mistake though, there are some studs there that can take up the slack for those losses. Everyone got a glimpse at what quarterback D.J Uiagalelei could do when he started against Boston College and Notre Dame last season while Lawrence was out due to Covid.
In those two starts Uiagalelei went 59 of 85 for 781 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. What was even more impressive about this was that he did it while nursing a lingering shoulder injury. He also brings a different look to the offense in the form of the quarterback power.
The losses in the wide receiver room should be offset by the return of veteran star Justyn Ross who missed all of last season recovering from surgery, and youngsters E.J. Williams, Joseph Ngata, and Frank Ladson.
Then you have a running back corp that loses one of the greatest backs to ever wear the Paw in Etienne. That’s a huge void to fill. The talent is there to make up for that void, though. Clemson has returning players like Lyn-J Dixon and Kobe Pace as well as freshman Will Shipley and Phil Mafah all waiting to contribute .
In 2020 the offensive line was a position that never performed to what the Tigers have gotten used to over this playoff run. The good thing is outside of the loss of Jackson Carman, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in this years NFL Draft, they return the rest of the starters up front and have started bringing in more talented players on the recruiting trail. They will need to add consistency to a unit that struggled at times in 2020.
On the other side of the ball the Tigers should be much better than they were on defense in 2020. This season will be Myles Murphy and Bryan Breese’s second year in Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ system and it should be interesting to see what they have in store now that they have a season under their belts.
The defensive front should be stout, the linebackers are deep, and the secondary should me much improved.
Georgia begins their 2021 campaign in their second year under offensive coordinator Todd Monken and the sixth season under the direction of head coach Kirby Smart. The Bulldogs are coming off of an 8-2 season and looked to improve on that.
One thing that will hurt Georgia’s offensive output will be the loss of wide receiver George Pickens. Pickens led the Bulldogs with six touchdowns and he’s out indefinitely after suffering a torn ACL this offseason.
Monken looks to improve on an offense that ranked fifth in the SEC with 32.3 points a game and became even more dangerous after JT Daniels, the former superstar USC recruit, was able to get past a torn ACL suffered at the beginning of 2019 and cement himself as the starting quarterback.
On defense they return their top two tacklers from a team that ended their season ranked 1st in the SEC (1st nationally) in rushing defense (72.3 ypg), 2nd in scoring defense (20.0 ppg), 2nd in total defense (317.3), 2nd in opponent first downs (185), 2nd in opponent 3rd down conversions (36.2%), and 3rd in total sacks (32).