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Clemson Football: 2019 Team Awards

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Clemson Football: 2019 Team Awards

Clemson Football: 2019 Team Awards

When a team wins all 13 games by an average score of 47 to 11, they are worthy of praise. The problem with giving out awards to this year's Clemson Tigers is deciphering through the many worthy candidates. But I'll give it a shot.

Offensive MVP: Travis Etienne, RB

The offense really started humming when Etienne got cranked up. The junior running back leads the nation in yards per carry and has 1,500 rushing yards despite just six fourth-quarter carries all year. He may not be a Doak Walker finalist, but he's the Clemson offensive MVP.

Defensive MVP: Isaiah Simmons, LB

Simmons leads Clemson in tackles, tackles for lost yardage, and sacks. He also has a pair of interceptions, six pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. A dominant performer all year long, Simmons was a finalist for the Bednarik Award and the Nagurski Trophy, which both go to the nation's best defensive player, and won the Butkus Award as the country's top linebacker.

Best Freshman: Tyler Davis, DT

The biggest question mark coming into the year may have been the interior of the defensive line with Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins off to the NFL. But Davis stepped in and has become a major force inside with 8.5 tackles for lost yardage and 5.5 sacks.

Best Play of the Season: Tee Higgins' catch vs. Virginia in the ACC Championship Game

The final score was 62-17. But early in the second quarter, Clemson was up 17-7 and facing 2nd-and-6 at midfield. Trevor Lawrence was flushed from the pocket and threw to Higgins on the sideline. Higgins was somehow able to hold his toe down and secure the ball for a first-down reception.

Best Performance by a Player: Trevor Lawrence vs. Boston College

Tee Higgins' catch was part of a sensational effort in the ACC Championship Game and Travis Etienne ran all over several teams, including Louisville for 192 yards. But Lawrence's showing against Boston College has been the best thus far. The sophomore quarterback was 16 of 19 for 275 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions while running eight times for 42 yards.

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Best Game (Team Performance): Domination of Boston College

In reality, most of the games following the North Carolina victory looked pretty much the same. But in the 59-7 destruction of Boston College, the Tigers outgained the Eagles 674 to 177. Travis Lawrence had his big day, Travis Etienne ran for 109 yards and three scores, and Boston College quarterback Dennis Grosel was just 3 of 14 passing on the day.

Defining Moment: Two-point conversion stop vs. North Carolina

It always seems to happen around the same time of year. Clemson unexpectedly gets tested and then becomes galvanized into a title contending team. That moment happened at North Carolina this year. The Tar Heels scored with 1:17 remaining to make the score 21-20 and Carolina head coach Mack Brown decided to go for two and the win. But his offense was stuffed by the Clemson defense and the Tigers have yet to be threatened again.

Biggest Surprise: Statistically, the 2019 defense has been better than that of '18

So let me get this straight. The Clemson defense lost Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrtence, Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell, Tre Lamar, Kendall Joseph, and Trayvon Mullen... and got better? That's what the stats say. The Tigers gave up 279 yards per game in 2018; they are allowing 245 this year. In 2018, opponents scored 13 points a game against the Tigers; this year it's down to 10.6. That Brent Venables guy can really coach defense.

Biggest Disappointment: Special teams

This has been the one aspect of the Clemson team that was not elite this fall. Football Outsiders' special teams efficiency rankings have the Tigers' unit at No. 90. ESPN has them 120th. Kicker B.T. Potter going 12 of 19 on field goals is a big reason for those low ratings.

Senior That Will Be Missed the Most: Isaiah Simmons, LB

Technically, he has another year remaining. But Simmons has been at Clemson for four years and no one expects the Butkus Award winner to return in 2020. Clemson will always have great players on defense, but guys with freakish athleticism, knowledge of the game, and leadership skills are hard to come by.

Player to Watch in 2020: Joseph Ngata, WR

Justyn Ross will be back at one receiver spot, but Tee Higgins has a decision to make. Should the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder leave, he could be replaced by Nagata, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder from California. Ngata has seen some quality time as a freshman, recording 16 catches for 229 yards and three scores entering the College Football Playoff.

Offseason Storyline: Rebuilding the offensive line

Travis Etienne and Tee Higgins could forego their senior seasons and declare for the NFL draft. But the big job in the offseason will be to restock up front. Clemson has four seniors on the offensive line and only left tackle Jackson Carman returns.

— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.