Clemson just wrapped up its 2021 campaign with a hard fought 20-13 win over Iowa State in the Cheez-It Bowl. After a 4-3 start, the Tigers bounced back to win their final six games, but did see their streak of six College Football Playoff appearances snapped, as well as their string of six straight ACC titles.
So, what does the 2022 season look like? Can Clemson rebound and reclaim their spot atop the ACC standings?
The answer is yes, although it’s certainly not set in stone. The Tigers certainly have the talent but there are a couple of areas of concern. First and foremost, the quarterback position. DJ Uiagalelei probably didn’t deserve all the heat he took this season, but the bottom line is he did not produce at the level that was expected.
The Uiagalelei we saw this season didn’t come anywhere close to the quarterback we saw in 2020. Injuries had to play a part in that but how much no one knows. The bottom line is the Tigers have to get more out of the position next season. Uiagalelei will either bounce back and be the guy everyone thought he was, or he will eventually get beat out. Cade Klubnik is just that good.
The receivers also have to be better. Even before the injuries started to ravage the position, the wideouts underperformed, and bigtime. Adam Randall and Antonio Williams provide an immediate influx in talent, no doubt, but guys like Joseph Ngata and EJ Williams will have to step up. Dacari and Beaux Collins should also see big jumps in their development.
Running back is also a slight concern. While Clemson has three studs at the position, that is all they have. Carrying three backs is not ideal, and one injury could be devastating. While it is expected that a running back will be added to the 2022 class, it is fair to wonder how much they will be able to really contribute.
Then there is the offensive line, which was wildly inconsistent this season. Injuries did not help but the fact is, while the team is loaded with talent, most of it just wasn’t ready in 2021. That should not be the case next year, although with the staff attempting to address the center position through the portal, that’s a pretty good indicator that they don’t think Ryan Linthicum will be quite ready in 2022.
Get that position settled, and the Tigers should be good. With McFadden coming back, Putnam, Tate and Parks all returning, and youngsters like Tristan Leigh, Dietrick Pennington ready to contribute, this group SHOULD be fine. Not to mention two true freshman who both sound like will be ready to play in their first season.
Oh, and we can’t talk about the offense without mentioning Brandon Streeter. The Tigers will have a new coach calling the plays next season. While some are concerned Dabo Swinney didn’t bring in someone from the outside, Streeter actually does have outside experience. He’s been an offensive coordinator for six years, at two different schools, and he’s had success. Yes, they were at FCS schools, but running and offense is running an offense. Streeter will be just fine.
On the other side of the ball, the Tigers should be good to go. Even without Brent Venables. If there is one area of concern, it’s defensive end. Xavier Thomas is gone, and it looks like KJ Henry is as well. That leaves Myles Murphy, Justin Mascoll, Cade Denhoff and Zaire Patterson. That’s not much depth, and as it stands right now, Clemson only has one end coming in the 2022 class and he’s a guy that will need time to develop.
Tyler Davis and Bryan Bresee will both be back. There are a very talented group of linebackers just waiting for their opportunity. LaFontaine Bentley, Barret Carter, Keith Maguire, and Jeremiah Trotter Jr will join Trenton Simpson. And there’s a lot of talent on the backend.
All of that might certainly sound like a lot, but it’s not. Everything listed here is doable. The biggest thing will be the quarterback position. However, unlike this season, there will be another legitimate option in 2022.
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