Led by Christian Wilkins, Clemson's defensive line is loaded and motivated to get back to the College Football Playoff
Clemson Tiger fans, take a look at the recent past. Beautiful, isn’t it? Now turn around and try to look into the future. Do you see much difference? Me neither. Dabo Swinney has built a monster and the Tigers will put the finishing touches on another outstanding recruiting class on National Signing Day on Feb. 7, ensuring that Saturdays in the fall will be enjoyable for years to come.
When September arrives and the 2018 college football season opens, Clemson will again be a national contender. Here are three of many reasons why Clemson should feel good about 2018.
1. Best defensive front in college football
There was a collective groan all over the country — and particularly in the ACC — when Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant announced that they were returning to Clemson for one more season. Along with Dexter Lawrence, the Tigers may have had the nation’s best defensive line last year. With all of them returning, along with the depth provided by Albert Huggins, Jabril Robinson, and the emerging Xavier Kelly, Clemson clearly has the best line in the land. Linebacker Dorian O’Daniel is gone and he did a lot of things for Clemson’s defense. But Kendall Joseph, Tre Lamar, and others will make the second level nasty as well, which will only add to the dominance of the front four.
2. Running game
Three starters return on the offensive line and they will have the pleasure of blocking for some exciting running backs. Travis Etienne should get more touches and gain more than the 744 yards he ran for this past fall, though scoring more than 13 touchdowns will be a challenge. Tavien Feaster also returns to give Clemson a dynamic 1-2 running back punch. And despite the hype that will surround the two young quarterbacks this offseason, quarterback Kelly Bryant should enter the fall as the starter and he too is dangerous running the ball.
3. Coaching staff
The fact that Dabo Swinney has been able to retain his top aides through this historic run is incredible. While less accomplished defensive coordinators have gotten head coaching jobs during the past couple of years, Brent Venables will be back for his seventh year at Clemson. That means that the loaded Clemson defense will be running the same, effective system that has produced ACC and national championships. Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott have both been at Clemson for a number of years and have shared the role of offensive coordinator since Chad Morris took the head coaching job at SMU in December 2014. The presence of Scott and Elliott will positively impact a receiving corps that will be long on talent but short on experience.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.