Clemson is entering the 2018 season with high expectations. The Tigers are projected to be a top 2 team in the country by most publications, but there is no guarantee Clemson will reach the College Football Playoff for the fourth consecutive season.
Some areas of concern heading into the season:
Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables was unhappy with his defense several times this spring. His biggest worry is at cornerback, where the Tigers must replace their No. 1 cornerback Ryan Carter. Trayvon Mullen, A.J. Terrell and Mark Fields are back after gaining experience in 2017, but Clemson likes to rotate its corners and still needs to build depth there. “I don’t feel great about our depth there at all,” Venables said this spring.
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Offensive line issues
Clemson’s offensive line was exposed at times in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama. The Tigers rushed for only 64 yards and quarterback Kelly Bryant was sacked five times in the loss. Clemson lost a pair of starters off of its offensive line in Tyrone Crowder and Taylor Hearn, and the team had issues at right tackle last season as Sean Pollard and Tremayne Anchrum split time and struggled with consistency. Pollard is penciled in to start at right guard in 2018, while Anchrum is slated to start at right tackle. Left guard John Simpson will also go from a backup to a starter this season to play alongside experienced left tackle Mitch Hyatt and center Justin Falcinelli. Clemson’s offensive line was solid overall in 2017, but the Tigers will need to improve there to boost its playoff chances.
Clemson lost two of its top three receivers in Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud. The Tigers have recruited incredibly well at receiver, but Hunter Renfrow, who finished with 60 catches last season, is the only player on the roster who has averaged more than two catches per game. Tee Higgins had an impressive spring game, and Amari Rodgers, Diondre Overton and others look ready to step up, but Renfrow is the only proven receiver at this point. He is also the only wide out who has consistently caught passes from Kelly Bryant during games. Whether Bryant or Trevor Lawrence is Clemson’s starting quarterback in 2018, it may take some time for the chemistry to gel.