Through the years Clemson has had some prolific offensive football teams and stars, especially in the last 15 years when the no-huddle, fast-break offenses became the norm in college football.
The Clemson Insider went through the archives to find the best offensive football teams in Clemson history. What are the criteria for the 10 best offenses in Clemson history? Obviously, yards and points per game will stand out, as will offensive playmakers. How many All-ACC or All-Americans were on the team? Where did they rank in the ACC, nationally and much more?
Today, we conclude our list with what TCI believes is the No. 1 offense in Clemson history.
The 2015 football season was perhaps the second greatest season in Clemson history, and a big reason for that was the offense. Despite having two rookie offensive coordinators in Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott, the Tigers rolled up records in just about every way imaginable.
Clemson was the only team with at least 4,000 yards passing and 3,000 yards rushing, and was the first ACC team in history to accomplish that feat.
The 2015 team was just the second team in Clemson history, joining the 2000 team, to average at least 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing in the same season.
The Tigers had 34 rushing touchdowns in 2015 and 35 passing touchdowns, the first offense in Clemson’s history to surpass 30 in both categories in the same season.
All five starting offensive linemen made the All-ACC team, a first in school history.
Clemson gained at least 500 yards of total offense in 12 games in 2015, including at least 500 in each of its last 11 games. It’s the longest streak in Clemson history. The streak included 500-yard games against Boston College and Alabama, who ranked No. 1 and No. 3 respectively in total defense last season.
The Tigers had two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season for just the second time in history, the first time that has happened since 2000.
Clemson finished the season ranked 11th in total offense, averaging 514 yards per game. The Tigers also ranked in the top 25 in several other major categories as well. They were 21st in rushing offense, 23rd in passing offense and 16th in scoring offense.
As a team, Clemson was seventh in completion percentage (.674), fifth in first downs per game, 13th in third down conversions (.474), 14th in the red zone and 21st in passing efficiency.
Individually, quarterback Deshaun Watson was third in the Heisman Trophy race and was the first Clemson player to ever be named as a Heisman Finalist. He also became the first Clemson quarterback to be named a consensus First-Team All-American, while also becoming the first one to win the Davey O’Brien and the Manning Awards as the nation’s best quarterback.
Watson also won the Archie Griffin Award as the nation’s top player and was a finalist for the Maxwell Award. He was the first player in FBS history to accumulate 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in the same season, while setting an ACC record for total offense in a season.
The Gainesville, Georgia native finished first in the nation in QBR, fifth in the nation in completion percentage, eighth in total offense, eighth in touchdown passes, ninth in points responsible for per game and 12th in passing efficiency.
Watson, the ACC Player of the Year and the MVP of the ACC Championship Game and Orange Bowl, set ACC records for total yards in a season (5,209) and total touchdowns in a season (47).
Running back Wayne Gallman ranked 22nd nationally in rushing yards per game and set a Clemson single-season record with 1,527 yards. He also set the school record for yards from scrimmage with 1,740 yards.
Tight end Jordan Leggett tied the Clemson record for touchdown receptions by a tight end for a season with eight and was a finalist for the John Mackey Award, which goes to the nation’s best tight end.
There was no better example of dominant Clemson’s offense was than in the National Championship Game against Alabama. Following the heartbreaking loss Watson was asked, “Where do you most need to improve heading into next season?”
Without any hesitation, senior left guard Eric Mac Lain chimed in.
“Nowhere,” Mac Lain said.
Watson smiled and the reporters in the room laughed, but it was not a laughing matter. Mac Lain was being serious.
It’s hard to find a flaw in Watson’s game. The Crimson Tide had no answer for him as he threw four touchdown passes and ran for 73 yards. In all, Watson totaled 478 yards – a new championship game record.
“He’s special. He really is,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We had 550 yards of offense. I’m really pleased with how he played. That’s one of the things Coach (Nick) Saban was talking to me about after the game.
“This guy, he’s special. Again, he’s got great toughness, great heart, a great mind for the game, and just made some huge plays all the way to the end.”
Watson completed 30 of 47 passes and four touchdowns to only one interception. The sophomore helped Clemson rack up a season-high 550 total yards against Alabama’s vaunted defense, while converting on 6 of 14 third downs.
“We thought, to be honest with you, that we could do a better job against their quarterback than what we did. He did a fantastic job in the game,” Saban said.
Like anyone that has played Watson, it was difficult for Alabama to contain him and force him to stay in the pocket. It was almost as if Watson was one step ahead of the Crimson Tide all night.
“You know, we like to play more man-to-man, but when you play against such an athletic quarterback and you’re playing man-to-man, nobody is looking at the quarterback so that makes it tough, and when we did play zone tonight we didn’t do a very good job,’ we didn’t tackle very well, break on the ball like we needed to. He extended some plays and made some big plays, but the guy is a fantastic player,” Saban said.
And because of Watson the 2015 Clemson offense was, too.
–Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports