When the term “most important” is given when describing a ranking of one player over another, it does not necessarily describe who the best players are on a team. Instead, it tells us the main or most important part of the team, without which it cannot really exist.
In other words, could Clemson have reached the College Football Playoff Championship Game last year without Deshaun Watson? And would they have had him there had those other “important” players had not been in place either.
Who are Clemson’s “Most Important Players” for 2016? We at The Clemson Insider have our own idea, and today we reveal who is No. 21.
Cain showed his worth by catching 34 passes for 582 yards and five touchdowns. His 17.1 yards per catch led the Tigers as midway through the season he became the vertical threat Deshaun Watson and Clemson needed.
Starting with the NC State game, he scored one touchdown in five straight games. Four of his five touchdowns were 38 yards or more, including a 55-yard touchdown reception against rival South Carolina. He also had a 38-yard catch-and-run for a score that helped the Tigers beat Florida State.
Cain also had a 69-yard reception against Boston College.
The only down side for the rising sophomore was his disciplinary issues. Twice last season he found himself in head coach Dabo Swinney’s doghouse. He was suspended prior to Clemson’s 58-0 win at Miami for violating team rules and then again prior to the College Football Playoff Semifinal Game at the Orange Bowl when he failed a drug test.
The failed drug test also led to a suspension in the College Football Playoff Championship Game and all of spring practice.
However, there does seem to be a bright side to all of this. It appears Cain has learned his lesson.
Swinney made it clear to Cain he would have to earn his way back into his good graces to get back on the team full time. That’s exactly what the sophomore has been doing.
“Deon has been great. He really has. I’m proud of Deon,” Swinney said earlier this spring. “I’m proud of where he is and what he is doing. I’m not giving him any leeway.”
Swinney said Cain had a great attitude in the spring and took ownership for his actions.
“He understands that he put himself in this situation and he is doing what he has to do to get back with this team. He has been, mentally, very engaged every day,” the Clemson coach said. “As I told him, I’m not worried. Football will take care of itself with Deon. He’ll make sure he is committed. He is doing a really good job. I’m proud of him, I really am.”
If Cain continues to do what he is asked from his head coach, he will be participating in practice this August when the team returns for fall camp.
“He is working out. It’s not like he isn’t with the team,” Swinney said. “We are not letting him practice and we will not let him practice until he has satisfied his obligation to me and to this program, and to his team.
“So, that is what he is doing. He is doing that. I’m really proud of him. I really am. If he continues to do what he does … We have a long summer ahead. You have to continue to make the (right) decisions, but if he continues to do what he is doing, then when we crank it up in August, he’ll be back out there.”