Summer is the preseason. It’s time for predictions, analysis, and magazines. The season is coming, and we just can’t wait.
The preseason magazine industry makes a killing this time of year. Heck, even The Clemson Insider has gotten in on the action. (Go buy a copy of “Best is the Standard.” You’ll be glad you did.) It’s a lot of fun to read what different publications have to say about your favorite team, your favorite players, or the entire nation at-large.
Clemson is obviously one of the most respected programs in the country heading into the 2017 college football season. Therefore, the Tigers are prominently featured in several of these magazines, either on national or regional covers. I own one national magazine that has Christian Wilkins on the cover.
I’ve noticed a trend this year when it comes to these covers: They all seem to feature four different players. This could be due to the current playoff system, a way to frame the cover, or some other reason entirely. Whatever the motivation, this seems to be the way publishers have chosen to operate.
This got me thinking: Who would be pictured on this kind of cover for Clemson football? In non-magazine terms, think of it as a 2017 Clemson football “Mount Rushmore” of sorts, the four most important faces on the team this season.
For sake of balance, I narrowed it down to two offensive and two defensive players, with a few close omissions. Here is my list:
Without an established starter at quarterback, it’s a whole lot tougher to pick out two so-called “faces” of Clemson’s offense. Renfrow is an obvious choice, especially since he’s already graced a Sports Illustrated cover. People know and recognize him as the player who caught the championship-winning touchdown. Even before that, many already respected him as a former preferred walk-on who has developed a knack for making big things happen at critical times.
There really aren’t any other no-doubt candidates, so I went with the most reliable member of the offense. Hyatt is a man of few words barely noticeable as he operates on the gridiron. That same muted tone to his game is what makes him special, as his high level of consistent play has put him at or near the top of the list of offensive tackles around the nation. The less you notice him in 2017, the better—all the more reason to feature him on a cover.
The only question here is whether to put an action shot, a candid shot, or a shot of him doing a split. Wilkins will likely emerge as the emotional leader of the Clemson defense, especially given his combination of tenacity and fun. From that standpoint, he is everything a coach would want in a tone-setter. Wilkins is also bracing for a monster year back at defensive tackle, where he might prove to be the most versatile defender in the country.
Not many people would consider Joseph cover-worthy, but much of his brilliance was outshined by Ben Boulware’s outsized personality and antics. Joseph is calmer and quieter, but he is also a violent defender that should make life miserable for both passers and ball-carriers this season. Joseph is a local product with a warm personality whose motor never stops. He seems destined for stardom in Brent Venables’ defense.
Just Missed the Cut
Kelly Bryant—Clemson’s quarterback still hasn’t established himself. There’s no guarantee he’s the starter past the midway point of the year.
Deon Cain—Arguably Clemson’s most talented skill player. Off-field struggles make him a questionable face for the Tigers.
Tyrone Crowder—Quiet and strong interior presence. Maybe he deserves it, but among fans, he barely moves the needle.
Clelin Ferrell—Could be the first Tiger drafted next year. He’s definitely productive enough, but he doesn’t have the pull of Wilkins or Joseph.
Dexter Lawrence—In time, grasshopper. He’s still too young to steal the spotlight from these older stars.
Greg Huegel—Picking a kicker just doesn’t seem right. Still, this guy is as consistent as they come.
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