Each season, Clemson has high expectations. This year those hopes may be even a little higher than usual. Athlon Sports has the Tigers ranked at No. 14 entering the season, but some publications have them much closer to the top and there is even talk of a College Football Playoff run. Having a Heisman candidate ready to partner up with a slew of explosive skill position threats will always fire up expectations.
But there are some major questions surrounding the 2015 Tigers. The answers to these questions will determine Clemson’s place in the chase for a Playoff spot.
Clemson’s Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines
1. Deshaun Watson’s Health
All eyes will be on Watson’s knee as Clemson opens camp. The star sophomore partially tore his ACL in practice late in the year and had surgery in December to repair the problem. He missed both the Russell Athletic Bowl and spring practice. He also injured his hand in a game against Louisville and sprained his knee prior to the tear in a game against Georgia Tech. Making sure Watson is 100 percent is priority No. 1 for Clemson this fall.
2. The Offensive Line
Much of Watson’s well being falls on the shoulders of the guys blocking for him. There will be four new starters in 2015 and there is a very good chance that a true freshman will have blind side protection responsibility. Also, running back Wayne Gallman showed a lot of promise as a freshman, but he will need some help from the line to improve Clemson’s rushing attack (88th in nation in 2014) and red zone offense (No. 113).
3. Adjusting to New Offensive Coordinators
This actually has little to do with new co-coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott. Both have been at Clemson for several years and know the offense that head coach Dabo Swinney wants to run. It’s really about the coach that left, Chad Morris. The new SMU head coach developed a great system at Clemson and as good as the two new coordinators may be, neither is Morris’s equal. At least not yet.
4. Depth on the Defensive Line
Clemson lost six of its top eight defensive linemen, including star Vic Beasley. End Shaq Lawson and tackle D.J. Reader appear ready to raise their play to a level that Clemson needs. But behind them, questions persist. The Tigers need to put together a rotation along the line that allows everyone to remain fresh.
5. Playmakers at Linebacker
While defensive coordinator Brent Venables has some possible impact players on the line in Lawson and Reader, replacing linebackers Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward may be more daunting. The Tigers have some solid options like Ben Boulware and B.J. Goodson, but it will be difficult for them to match the production of the two departed stars.
— 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.