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Tigers get back to the basics, like they always do

Last week, Clemson had nine players participating in the NFL Scouting Combine, including five players on offense that made up one of the most productive offenses in Clemson history.

During the Tigers’ run to its first national championship in 35 years, quarterback Deshaun Watson, running back Wayne Gallman, tight end Jordan Leggett and wide receivers Mike Williams and Artavis Scott contributed to 84 percent of the total yards and 89 percent of the team’s total touchdowns.

So while they were all trying to impress NFL scouts, coaches and general managers last week in Indianapolis, Ind., Clemson began the process of trying to replace them, which will not be an easy thing to do.

“We believe as a program that we have recruited well,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “That is the great thing about college football is that those guys have to go at some point. It is a challenge.”

It’s a challenge because in each of the five guys they are replacing, they’re replacing a guy who was a record setter at Clemson. Watson is perhaps the greatest player to have ever put on the Orange and White. He owns countless game, season and career records at Clemson as well as ACC records. He is the first Clemson finalist for the Heisman Trophy and the first ACC player to do it in back-to-back years. He is also the first ACC player to win the Davey O’Brien and the Manning Awards as the nation’s best quarterback in back-to-back years.

Gallman set the single-season rushing record in 2015 and ends his career from a yardage and touchdown standpoint ranked in the top five in both categories, even though he played just three seasons.

Williams also leaves as one of the best receivers in program history and is just the third wide receiver, joining Rod Gardner and Sammy Watkins, to record 1,000 receiving yards in two seasons. He and Gardner are the only two to do it in consecutive seasons played.

As for Scott, he left Clemson as the all-time leading receiver in terms of catches, and he did it in just three seasons.

“Obviously, we had a comfort level with Deshaun, Leggett, Wayne and those guys, but we really like the confidence we are seeing with the guys that are getting an opportunity,” Elliott said. “We are still not where we need to be. We have a long time until we play. We are just four days in, but we like the energy, the intensity and the guys look like they are taking some ownership for this off-season. We still have work to do, but we are excited for the challenge.”

So do the Tigers have to change anything as a result of losing so much production?

“Every spring we go back to the basics. We start over,” Elliott said. “So even if those guys were returning, we would go back to the basics of what we do because each season presents its own challenges.

“Each team is different. Each season is different. The offense is going to be suited to the strengths of those guys and where they are at. You don’t really change because each spring we go back to the basics.”

 

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