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Clemson Tigers 2016 Team Awards

Author:
Ben Boulware

Ben Boulware

Right now, all Clemson has on its mind is Ohio State. But looking back at the 13 games that the Tigers have played, here are some awards for the 2016 season to this point.

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Offensive MVP: Deshaun Watson, QB

There have been some great players in Clemson history, including Tajh Boyd, the quarterback that preceded Watson. But Watson is the best to ever touch Howard's Rock. For the second year in a row, No. 4 has been invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation after throwing for 3,914 yards and 37 touchdowns. But there is one stat that that stands out over all others. Clemson is 30-3 in games started by Watson.

Defensive MVP: Ben Boulware, LB

There are probably five or six right answers to the defensive MVP question. I’ll go with Boulware because he led the team with 105 tackles, had nine resulting in lost yardage, and four sacks. Beyond the numbers, the senior was an outstanding leader of a very talented, but also very young group of Clemson defenders.

Best Freshman: Dexter Lawrence, DT

Lawrence could be the best freshman in America. The Wake Forest, N.C., native exceeded even the loftiest expectations, finishing fourth on the team with 59 tackles and second with seven sacks. To compile those numbers from the defensive tackle position as a freshman is simply remarkable.

Best Play of the Season: Jordan Leggett’s Game-Winning Touchdown vs. Florida State

Clemson had lost 11 of the last 12 games in Tallahassee and once again, Florida State led late in the fourth quarter. But with just over two minutes remaining, Watson hit a wide-open Leggett who rambled down the sideline and went airborne over FSU’s Kyle Meyers, put his left hand on the ground, and reached the ball over the goal line for what wound up to be the winning score.

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Best Performance by a Player in 2016: Deshaun Watson vs. South Carolina

In the biggest of beatdowns of Clemson’s in-state rival, Watson was phenomenal, completing 27 of 33 passes for 347 yards and six touchdowns. He did have one interception, but in reality Watson did whatever he wanted against the Gamecocks.

Best Game (Team Performance): 56-7 Thrashing of South Carolina

The victories over Louisville and Florida State were more important, but Clemson didn’t play better than it did Thanksgiving weekend. The Tigers were up 21-0 after the first quarter and stretched it out to 42-0 early in the third. The Tigers had nearly three times as many yards (622 to 218) as the Gamecocks. On that night, Clemson was close to perfect.

Defining Moment: The Start of the Wake Forest Game

Clemson was coming off of the bitter loss to Pittsburgh and traveled to face a Wake Forest team that was leading Louisville going into the fourth quarter the week before. How the Tigers responded showed the true character of this team. Deshaun Watson and the offense put up 28 quick points and coasted to a 35-13 win that clinched the ACC Atlantic Division.

Biggest Surprise: Clelin Ferrell, DE

Ferrell was expected to be part of the defensive line rotation but became a bigger piece when Austin Bryant got hurt. After playing a few games, it was clear that the redshirt freshman wasn’t coming off the field. He wound up with five sacks, including a big one in the ACC Championship Game.

Biggest Disappointment: Inconsistency

Just when you thought things were on the right course, Clemson would have a bad game. The Troy game went to the wire and the Tigers were fortunate that NC State missed a short field goal at the end. A lackluster effort against Pittsburgh at home resulted in a Panthers victory. The up-and-down nature does pose a concern going into the College Football Playoff, but the good news is that Clemson played its best in the biggest games.

Senior That Will Be Missed the Most Next Season: Ben Boulware, LB

The Tigers will miss Carlos Watkins up front and Cordrea Tankersley at corner. And Jay Guillermo solidified the offensive line when he was inserted in the lineup in 2015. But Boulware fuels the Clemson defense and the players behind him on the depth chart are very unproven. Clemson will find a great athlete to fill that weak-side linebacker spot, but probably won’t find another Boulware.

Player to Watch in 2017: Trayvon Mullen, CB

The freshman from Fort Lauderdale battled a foot injury this season, but did see action in 11 games. With Cordrea Tankersley finishing up his collegiate career, Mullen will see increased action next season. Mullen has the length (6-2) that defensive coordinators love and was a prized recruit for Clemson in the 2016 class.

Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Quarterback

When you lose a two-time Heisman finalist, a big question mark emerges at that position. Deshaun Watson is a junior, technically. But he is on track to graduate in May and head coach Dabo Swinney announced in November that his star signal-caller will enter the NFL Draft. Swinney also recently stated that Kelly Bryant will get No. 1 reps this spring, but nothing is etched in stone. Zerrick Cooper is redshirting as a true freshman this season, Tucker Israel will be starting his sophomore year next fall, and five-star phenom Hunter Johnson will enroll in January and take part in spring drills.

— 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.