Chris Cox (CC), Matt Wilczewski (MW) and Marty Coleman (MC) offer up bold predictions for the 2016 Tigers
CC: Tre Lamar takes over as the starter at MIKE linebacker before seasons end.
There have been no indications that Kendall Joseph’s job is in jeopardy, but there’s just something special about this Lamar kid. He’s the kind of athlete in the middle that Brent Venables can build around and he’s going to be tough to keep off the field after he gets some game experience.
MC: Deshaun Watson throws single digit interceptions.
Many fail to remember that Mr. Watson played in 15 games last season and threw 491 passes, instead focusing on the raw number of interceptions. Watson could certainly clean up some throws, but some interceptions were his receiver’s fault and a couple were bad luck. Watson cleans up what he can and ends up with 9 or less INTs, no matter how many games he plays.
MW: Deon Cain leads Clemson in receiving yards.
Following his off season in the doghouse, Cain appears to be prepped and ready to take the next step on the field. Yes, Mike Williams is back, but he’s likely to receive special treatment on the field from a team’s best cornerback as well as a safety shaded in his direction. Thus, things open up for Cain to take advantage, as he puts together a monster sophomore season for the Tigers.
MW: Greg Huegel increases his touchback percentage to 40%.
It’s no secret that the 2015 Clemson team struggled in the kick coverage game, a significant portion of that due to the kicker’s inability to put the ball into the endzone and force touchbacks. Last year, Huegel had 37 kickoffs and just 10 touchbacks, amounting to a 27.03% touchback rate. This offseason, he’s taken advice from former Tiger PK, Chandler Catanzaro on how to increase his kickoff distance, including yoga to enhance flexibility. I’m not quite ready to say Huegel jumps into the top tier of touchback percentage kickers, but I do believe he’ll increase his percentage a significant amount.
CC: Clemson takes at least two kickoffs back for touchdowns.
”Special” attention has been applied to special teams this offseason for obvious reasons. There seems to be a fierce competition for the KO return role and it appears the staff has several able bodies in place to make the Tigers a threat in the return game.
MC: Adam Choice rushes for 500+ yards
Might sound crazy when you have a 1,500+ yard back, a 1,000 yard quarterback and a freshman phenom in the backfield for a a guy coming off knee surgery to gain 500+ yards, but Choice lightens the load on Gallman and Watson and shows a he’s a feature back in his own right.
MC: Special Teams gives up 0 return touchdowns
They may not be “special” and this wouldn’t be a big deal for most teams, but considering Clemson was one of two teams (of 127) to give up 3 kickoff returns for touchdowns in 2015 this would be a major improvement. I’m expecting major improvement.
MW: Clelin Ferrell records double-digit sacks.
The reviews on Ferrell this off season have been absolutely glowing for a kid that has yet to take a snap in a Clemson uniform. It’ll be a nearly impossible task for him and his counterpart to make-up the 25 sacks recorded by the Lawson/Dodd combination in 2015, but he’ll be depended upon as THE pass rush specialist of the defense. I’ll buy into the Clelin hype and say he more than adequately fills Dodd’s spot.
CC: The Tigers finish with two +1,000 yard rushers and two +1,000 yard receivers.
Mike Williams and Wayne Gallman are almost locks to knock out 2 of the 4 if they stay healthy. After finishing his first two seasons with over +900 yards, Artavis Scott will finally get over the hump. Perhaps the biggest question here is whether or not Watson can eclipse the 4-digit mark again. If the Tigers play 15 games I think he does.
Photos courtesy gwinndavisphotos.com