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2020 ACC Football Collaboration: Clemson Tigers

A preview of Clemson from Brian Goodison at Shakin’ the Southland

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Each week this season we will feature a preview done by a writer for the opposing blog and shared amongst all of the ACC SBNation blogs. Thanks to our fearless leader of SBNation College Caroline Darney for organizing this effort.

Today, our friend Brian_Goodison over at Shakin the Southland gave us the lowdown on the Clemson Tigers in his own words.

Key Departures

Isaiah Simmons (LB)

Tee Higgins (WR)

Most of the OL

Key Returnees

Trevor Lawrence (QB)

Travis Etienne (RB)

Key Additions

Bryan Breese (DT)

DJ Uiagaleli (QB)

Brief overview of 2020 team

Clemson starts 2020 at the top of the ACC, like they have for the last 5 years. However this year there appears to be a legitimate challenger in Notre Dame which means Clemson won’t have the luxury of figuring things out against each team. That could prove disastrous for the Tigers as they break in a young OL and an inexperienced back 7.

Once again Clemson should expect to compete for and win the ACC with a trip to the playoff as a reward. While I’m never comfortable saying national title or bust, this team has the ability to get there.

On offense Trevor Lawrence is back to lead the best offense in the ACC and he’s joined by Travis Etrienne who made the surprise decision to return to Clemson for his senior year. While Justyn Ross will be out due to injury this Fall, Clemson has always had talent at WR so we should see several player step up, including Amari Rodgers. But there is a weakness on the OL, or at least an unknown. 4 new starters means Clemson is going to have to gel quickly to see the success fans expect. And if the OL doesn’t turn out well it could lead to problems later in the season.

On defense the big question will be if the Tigers can get pressure quickly enough to cover for a young back 7. There is a lot of talent in the secondary, but it needs some time to go from potential to production. If the defense comes together like Brent Venables wants this could be a unit that meets the high expectations at Clemson.

Key players to know on offense

Everyone knows Trevor Lawrence, and after a disappointing College Football Playoff he’ll be looking to cement his status as one of the top picks in the 2021 NFL Draft and lead Clemson to a second national title during his time as a Tiger.

Travis Etienne. Much like when Clemson’s entire defensive line returned unexpectedly, Etienne’s decision to bypass the NFL draft is huge. Despite playing for Clemson Etienne doesn’t make a lot of headlines as one of the top backs in the nation. He gets fewer carries than the big names, even in games when he should be getting them, but puts up some amazing numbers. He provides balance to an offense with an amazing array of tools.

Joseph Ngata and Frank Ladson at WR are a pair that could become the next big Clemson WR names, and with Justyn Ross likely out all year and Tee Higgins in the NFL these guys are going to be counted on to provide the reliability and circus catches we’ve come to expect at Clemson

Key players to know on defense + special teams

Tyler Davis at DT is big name. He stepped into a huge hole last year and filled it admirably. His ability to hold the line is going to be critical to Clemson’s ability to rush the QB, something that was lacking last year.

Bryan Breese at DT is only a true freshman, but his ability to play from the first game will determine Clemson’s success in creating pressure. Last year Clemson didn’t have second DT to help run a 4 man front and generate pressure. Breese should help with that.

I’ll cheat a little bit and say the entire LB corps. Isaiah Simmons is not someone you easily replace in normal circumstances. And with the loss of spring ball coupled with

What is your team’s biggest strength?

Biggest strength on the team has to be QB. Lawrence is just so good, especially relative to the rest of the ACC, that pretending otherwise is just silly. But behind him would definitely be Travis Etienne.

What is your team’s biggest weakness?

Depending on your preference either the OL or the back 7. The OL only returns one starter from last year and the 4 new guys are fairly green. In the back 7 on defense there will be a lot of guys rotating in, especially at LB, until someone shows Brent Venables they have the ability to play the position as required.

Who is your team MVP?

I’l go with Etienne. Trevor Lawrence is important, but Etienne makes everything work and if Lawrence goes down we’d be looking at Etienne to carry the load. And while there is talent behind Etienne I think our gameplan would change too much for it to be effective against better teams like Notre Dame.