ACC Kickoff 2016: Clemson

ACC Kickoff Attendees from Clemson:


Wipe the Slate Clean (July 22, 12:00 p.m.)

Current Clemson football faithful will carry memories of last season forever, but reigning ACC Player of the Year Deshaun Watson said it is important for the Tigers to have short memories as they prepare for 2015.

“Just really, it's simple,” the rising junior quarterback said Friday. “Each and every year is a different year. We have to start over. Last year's wins, touchdowns or stops aren’t going to do anything for us this year. We know we have a target on us and we have to go 10 times harder to get where we want to go this year than we did last year. We just got to take it one day at a time and make sure everybody is on the same page. Know and understand that nothing is going to be given to us, we have to go earn it.”

And Watson, who expects to earn his Clemson undergraduate degree in just 2 ½ years, has set goals beyond ACC Championships, another 14-win season or a return trip to the College Football Playoff. It goes beyond duplicating the eye-opening numbers he amassed last season, when he became the first player in FBS history to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for another 1,000 in the same season.

“It's starting off with being a good citizen off the field, being a good student in the classroom, watching film, working out, taking care of your body, eating right, little things like that,” Watson said. “If you take care of the little things, the big things are going to take care of themselves.”

Watson reeled off the litany mainly for the benefit of media in attendance at this year’s ACC Kickoff. His teammates likely don’t need to be reminded.

“The standard is never going to change,” Watson said. “The best is the standard. Coach (Dabo) Swinney has been preaching that for the past eight years. This is no surprise for us. This is what we've been building for, especially for the guys that have been here from the start – guys like Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, C.J. Spiller.  All these guys been building up for this moment right here. 

“It's a privilege to be able to take the torch and run with it.”

2015 In Review

Behind the play of dynamic QB Deshaun Watson, the ACC Player of the Year, Clemson utilized an explosive offense and a defense ranked 10th nationally, to tie an NCAA record with 14 wins and take Alabama to the brink before losing in the fourth quarter of the 2015 National Championship Game...In all, the Tigers of Coach Dabo Swinney enjoyed a nation’s best 17-game winning streak, captured their 15th ACC Championship, decisively defeated No. 4 Oklahoma (37-17) in the College Football Playoff Semifinals in the Capital One Orange Bowl and was ranked No. 1 in each of the 2015 CFP Rankings...Clemson recorded double figures in wins for the fifth consecutive year under Swinney, who was named consensus National Coach of the Year, named by 10 different Coach of the Year Awards...Watson finished third in the Heisman voting and won both the Manning and Davey O’Brien Quarterback of the Year Awards...Watson and DE Shaq Lawson were named consensus All-Americans, while S Jayron Kearse was a first-team All-American selection...TE Jordan Leggett, CB Mackensie Alexander and PK Greg Huegel were second-team picks, while LBs B.J. Goodson (4th team) and Ben Boulware also received All-American recognition...Huegel, T Mitch Hyatt and DT Christian Wilkins were named first-team Freshmen All-Americans and 17 Tigers were named to the All-ACC team...Watson, Lawson, Boulware, Kearse, Alexander, Leggett, RB Wayne Gallman, WR Artavis Scott, G Eric Mac Lain and DT Carlos Watkins were first-team All-ACC picks.

Who’s Gone

For the second straight year, Clemson loses heavily on the defensive side of the ball with five early entries declaring for the NFL Draft...The Tigers will miss DEs Lawson and Kevin Dodd, who combined for 49 TFLs, LB Goodson, as well as three of four starters in the secondary in Ss Kearse and T.J. Green and CB Alexander, one of the nation’s best cover corners...Offensively, the Tigers will be without starters in G Mac Lain and T Gore and WRs Charone Peake and Germone Hopper.

The Schedule

Clemson faced most of its toughest foes at home in 2015, but the tables turn this year as the Tigers will have to travel to Auburn, Florida State and Georgia Tech.

2016 Preview

Offensively, the Tigers should be as potent as any team in the land in 2016, led by Watson, the leading contender for National Player of the Year honors...Watson (1,105 yards) and Gallman (1,527) both topped 1,000-yards in rushing a year ago, and there is depth at RB with Adam Choice, Tyshon Dye and C.J. Fuller available...Watson will have many receiving options with the return of Mike Williams from a year-long injury, to go with Scott (93 catches), Leggett, Hunter Renfrow and Deon Cain...Up front, Hyatt, an Outland Trophy candidate, and Jay Guillermo key the offensive line with G Tyrone Crowder....It is on defense where a lot of work needs to be done...The line looks to be strong again with All-ACC Carlos Watkins and Scott Pagano returning at DT, where they are joined by Jabril Robinson and Albert Huggins and massive January enrollee Dexter Lawrence...Wilkins experimented in the spring at DE and looked very comfortable with Richard Yeargin, Austin Bryant and Chris Register...Boulware leads a linebacker corps that includes Kendall Joseph, Dorian O’Daniel, Korrin Wiggins, Jalen Williams, January enrollees Shaq Smith and Tre Lamar as well as twin brothers J.D. and Judah Davis...In the secondary, Cordrea Tankersley holds down one corner spot with Ryan Carter, Marcus Edmund and Mark Fields in the running for the other....Jadar Johnson emerged in the spring at one safety position with Van Smith and Tanner Muse competing for the other spot.

Numbers & Notes

4 - Clemson defeated four of the five ranked teams it faced in 2015, including three wins over Top 10 teams.

27 - In his first season as Clemson’s starting placekicker, Greg Huegel tied a single-season ACC record with 27 made field goals.

169 - Though only a junior, WR Artavis Scott is the active career leader in pass receptions in the ACC with 169 catches.

465 - QB Deshaun Watson averaged 465 yards of total offense against the No. 1 (Boston College) and No. 3 (Alabama) defenses in the nation. Without playing Clemson, BC and Alabama allowed just an average of just 243 yards of offense per game between them.

1,527 - Sophomore RB Wayne Gallman set a Clemson school record by rushing for 1,527 yards in 2015.