The Clemson Tigers are coming off a 11-2 season in which they won the Orange Bowl against Ohio State (thank God). Let's take a deeper look into the offense and coaching staff led by Dabo Swinney.
Last season Chad Morris' spread attack used the pass to setup the run, running on just 53.7% of standard down situations (59.6% is average). Morris' offense played at one of the fastest paces in college footbally at 68.9% (50% is average). Though Clemson returns one of the best offensive coordinators in all of college football they are losing a wealth of talent in NFL draft picks Tahj Boyd (QB), Sammy Watkins (WR), Martavis Bryant (WR), and Brandon Thomas (OT).
At Quarterback, Clemson won't just be replacing 3 year starter Tahj Boyd but also hip hop headcase Chad Kelly, who was dismissed from the team after arguing with coaches during the spring game and an alleged off-field incident. Long time backup Cole Stoudt is expected to take the reins after playing quite well in garbage time against Wake Forest last season. Stoudt will have a bit of competition in 5-star blue chip freshman DeShaun Watson, who is coming back from a collarbone injury suffered during the spring game. Barring any unforeseeable circumstances I expect Stoudt to maintain the starter position but also expect Watson to see some snaps.
Running back and wide receiver are also very interesting positions for the Tiger's offense. Swinney will be looking to fill the void at running back left by Rod McDowell, but he has some very capable options in leading returning rusher Zac Brooks and D.J. Howard to go along with high caliber red shirt freshman in Wayne Gallman and Tyshon Dye. Perhaps a more difficult challenge will be attempting to fill the hole left by Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. However, Clemson is in a great position with experienced possession receivers Adam Humphries and Charone Peake to go along with outside threats of Germone Hopper and Mike Williams. Charone Peake, in my mind is really the guy to watch, he has the ability to get open and has flashed some big play ability. I expect Williams to be the top redzone and deep target in Morris' spread offense.
Clemson will be losing 3 of their top offensive lineman from last season. Though they do return some experience in guard David Beasley, center Ryan Norton and guard Kalon Davis. I expect the starting 5 will be Isaiah Battle, David Beasley, Ryan Norton, Kalon Davis and Shaq Anthony.
Dabo Swinney will begin his 7th season as head coach of the Tigers. He has a record of 51-23 all time and 3-3 in bowl games. Swinney is fortunate to be returning some of the best coordinators in the country in OC Chad Morris and DC Brent Venables. Clemson will begin their season in Athens, apart of a home-and-home with Georgia, before traveling to Florida State a few weeks later. So we should have a pretty good gauge of this team early in the season.
Part two will be out tomorrow, where the 2014 Clemson defense and special teams is borken down and a way-too-early prediction is made.