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2021 College Football Preview: #2 Clemson Tigers

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Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers are ranked #2 in our College Football Preseason rankings. Clemson has to replace quite a bit from an amazing 2020 offense. Both Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne are now on the Jacksonville Jaguars roster. 

Nevertheless, this offense has a ton of former four and five-star recruits and Clemson reloads better than almost any team in the country. Here is a closer look at the 2021 Clemson Tigers.

2021 Offense

DJ Uiagalelei got to play in nine games in 2020 and he proved to be a solid replacement for Lawrence at the QB position (Sports-Reference.com). The 6-4 250 pounder tossed five touchdowns and ran for four more scores in limited playing time. The former five-star recruit will be tested by Georgia in the first game of the year but the schedule eases up quite a bit after that.

Replacing Etienne in at running back will be difficult, but senior Lyn-J Dixon has the ability to do so. Dixon ran for 190 yards and two scores last year and should get the bulk of the carries in 2021. Also, expect sophomore Kobe Pace to get some playing time behind Dixon.

Wide receiver Justyn Ross is back on the football field after missing the entire 2020 season due to a gruesome neck injury. Ross was one of the best receivers on the team in 2019 and 2018 so if he can regain that form opposing defenses will be in trouble. 

Frank Ladson Jr. is another solid wideout that should be in the 2021 starting lineup after catching three touchdowns last year. Tight end Braden Galloway will be a great target for Uiagalelei over the middle when protection breaks down.

2021 Defense

Clemson keeps on landing tons of highly touted players on the defensive side of the ball. Last year’s defense ranked 14th in the nation against the run (112.7 yards per game). Tyler Davis and Bryan Bresee both return at the two defensive tackle spots so this unit could be even better at defending the run in 2021. 

Clemson has had some elite pass rushers in recent years and this year they have several players who know how to terrorize the quarterback. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables will have no problem sending stud linebacker Baylon Spector (64 tackles and 4.5 sacks last year) on lots of disguised blitzes this season. 

The Tigers did struggle at times against the pass last season but expect that to improve this year as the young kids in the secondary have more experience under their belt. Free safety Nolan Turner led Clemson in interceptions last year and he’ll be a leader of this unit in 2021. Junior corner Andrew Booth had two picks a year ago and he’ll likely be one of the best defensive backs in the ACC.  

2021 Special Teams

B.T. Potter returns for his senior season as the Tigers starting kicker. Potter made 18 field goals and 61 extra points last year. Will Spiers comes back as punter this season after averaging 44 yards per boot in 2020.

Clemson has plenty of speedy skill players for the return game. Expect Justyn Ross, Michel Dukes, and Kobe Pace to share the workload on special teams.

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