The golden age of Clemson football under Dabo Swinney continues. Look at the Tigers’ last three seasons: a 40-4 record, three ACC championships, three College Football Playoff appearances and a national title in 2016. Clemson is among college football’s elite, and figures to be right back in the Playoff mix with the defending national champs in 2018. Will there be a fourth straight installment of Alabama-Clemson in the College Football Playoff?
Clemson is ranked No. 2 in Sporting News’ updated way-too-early top 25. Here’s an early look at the Tigers heading into 2018:
Clemson football schedule 2018
|April 14||Spring Game||Clemson, S.C.|
|Sept. 1||Furman||Clemson, S.C.|
|Sept. 8||at No. 25 Texas A&M||College Station, Texas|
|Sept. 15||Georgia Southern||Clemson, S.C.|
|Sept. 22||at Georgia Tech||Atlanta|
|Sept. 29||Syracuse||Clemson, S.C.|
|Oct. 6||at Wake Forest||Winston-Salem, N.C|
|Oct. 20||N.C. State||Clemson, S.C.|
|Oct. 27||at No. 19 Florida State||Tallahassee, Fla.|
|Nov. 3||Louisville||Clemson, S.C.|
|Nov. 10||at Boston College||Chestnut Hill, Mass.|
|Nov. 17||Duke||Clemson, S.C.|
|Nov. 24||No. 23 South Carolina||Clemson, S.C.|
|Dec. 1||ACC championship||Charlotte, N.C.|
Clemson football recruiting 2018
The Tigers ranked No. 6 in 247Sports’ Composite team rankings for the 2018 recruiting class. Clemson landed the top player in five different states in quarterback Trevor Lawrence (Georgia), defensive end Xavier Thomas (Florida), offensive tackle Jackson Carman (Ohio) and receivers Derion Kendrick (South Carolina) and Justyn Ross (Alabama). That doesn’t include five-star defensive end KJ Henry, either. Clemson’s national reach continues to expand under Swinney, and that record of sending players to the NFL hasn’t hurt.
What to watch in 2018
1. Will Lawrence push for starting job?
Kelly Bryant replaced Deshaun Watson in 2017, settled into the starting job and led Clemson to the College Football Playoff with 2,802 passing yards, 665 rushing yards and 24 total touchdowns. Lawrence, meanwhile, was the top-ranked player in the 2018 class, and his arrival comes with just as much (if not more) fanfare than Watson. That gives Clemson one of the most intriguing quarterback battles heading into the spring again, especially with former five-star Hunter Johnson also in the mix.
2. Will Travis Etienne break out?
Etienne showed tremendous potential as a freshman with 766 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on just 107 carries. He averaged 7.2 yards per attempt, and that kind of production should continue as a sophomore. He’s in a committee with Tavien Feaster (669 yards, seven touchdowns) and Adam Choice (326 yards, six touchdowns), and it will be interesting to see how many more carries Etienne gets. This is a nice problem for Swinney and the offensive staff.
3. Best defensive line ever?
When Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell all decided to stay in school to join defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence for one more season, it sent a message. Clemson has a starting front four that produced 25 sacks and 45 tackles for loss last season and there’s reason to believe all four could be first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft — leaders among a potentially all-time great defensive line class. Will that be enough to avoid complacency in the ACC and get back to the College Football Playoff? That will be Clemson’s biggest challenge.