Max Donaldson, Guest Writer

Even after beating Alabama 44-16 to win the National Championship last year, Clemson has a long road to get back there. They return most of their offensive weapons from last year but they have lost major defensive weapons. The biggest losses for them are on the defensive line, where they lost all four starters – Dexter Lawerence, Clelin Ferrel, Austin Bryant, and Christian Wilkins. This group accounted for 62% of the Tackles for Loss and 76% of the Sacks from last year. Clemson will look to DE Xavier Thomas, DT Nyles Pinckney, and DE Justin Foster to help fill that production. 


The good news for Clemson is that they return Heisman hopeful Trevor Lawerence who took over for good after the fourth game. All he did after that was lead Clemson to be National Champions. Around him, they bring back Wide Receivers Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross and Running Back Travis Etienne. It’ll be weird to not have Hunter Renfrow around after what seems to be forever but he is on to the NFL. Protecting Lawerence will be some familiar faces as Clemson returns 4 senior starting offensive lineman. This will allow Lawerence and the rest of the offense to take the next step in their progression.


Departures. If you could use one word to describe the Clemson defense this year. They only return 4 starters – OLB Isiah Simmons, CB A.J. Terrell, and Safties Tanner Muse and K’von Wallace. The defense will rely on these four to step up and help with the growing pains of the new defense. Any time a team loses the players and production Clemson has lost this year, you expect to see a dropoff. Dabo Swinney has been able to recruit so well the last couple of years that this shouldn’t be a problem. He has Xavier Thomas, Nyles Pinckney, and Justin Foster to hopefully pick up where last year’s group left off.


The ACC is in a down period right now which helps and hurts Clemson. They have an easier schedule, making it easier for them to go undefeated but one loss could hurt them severely. The toughest game for them will Texas A&M (Sept. 7th). This will be the first test for the new defense and will reset the expectations for this team. A good win here will set the tone for the season. They also play Florida St (10-12), this could be a game to decide the division but with Florida St. recent struggles it is a toss-up. They will end the season at South Carolina in their annual rivalry game.