The 2019 Clemson Football Team is loaded with talent. The Tigers return 11 starters from last year’s national championship squad, but seven of them are on the offensive side of the ball.
So, here is what we do know about the Tigers as they get ready for fall practice at the end of this month.
This is Trevor Lawrence’s team
Last year, Trevor Lawrence was just trying to get in line with the rest of the freshman on the team. He was not even the starter at quarterback until the fifth game, sharing duties with then starter Kelly Bryant.
The leadership on the team came from Clemson’s defensive line which had four All-Americans up front in Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant. The 2018 Tigers belonged to the defense.
But as the season went along, Lawrence came into his own. He eventually won the starting job and then took the offense to another level. By the end of the season, many were calling him the front-runner to win this year’s Heisman Trophy.
Head coach Dabo Swinney said in the spring that this is Lawrence’s team now. They’re going to follow him despite the fact he is just a sophomore. Considering how he got better and better as the season went along last year, you can only imagine how good Lawrence will be this season as he continues to progress as a player, quarterback and man.
Clemson is loaded with weapons
Lawrence might be driving the car to Clemson’s offense, but he has a lot of bells and whistles to help him along the way in their journey.
It starts with reigning ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne at running back. The junior is coming off a season in which he set Clemson’s single season rushing record and tied an ACC record for touchdowns. Though he is likely to turn professional at the end of the year, Etienne has a chance to leave Clemson as its all-time rushing and touchdown leader in just three seasons.
Besides Etienne, Lawrence also has a wealthy assortment of wide receivers to throw the football to, starting with Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. These two might just be the best duo of receivers in the country. Both have the strength, the hands and physicality to handle press coverage. Both can highpoint a football with the best of them and both have breakaway speed in the open field. Throw in Cornell Powell, Diondre Overton and T.J. Chase, plus freshmen sensations Frank Ladson and Joseph Ngata, and no receiving corps in the country is deeper than Clemson’s.
It starts up front
Clemson returns four starters on the offensive line and all four are seniors. Sean Pollard moved from guard and tackle to play center in the spring where he will start, while Gage Cervenka solidified his starting spot from last year at right guard. John Simpson is back to start at left guard, as is Tremayne Anchrum at right tackle.
The only person on the offensive line that has not been a starter is Jackson Carman at left tackle. The sophomore replaces All-American Mitch Hyatt, who was the Ironman on Clemson’s team the last four years in terms of starts, games played and overall snaps. Carman has big shoes to fill, but the former 5-star proved he can handle his own when he came in for an injured Hyatt at Boston College last November.
Clemson’s offensive line manhandled Alabama’s defensive front in the national championship game, as it did not allow Lawrence to be touched by the Crimson Tide all night, much less sacked. They ended the game by going on a record 10-minute drive that covered 94 yards to run the clock out. Every play was a running play.
Clemson strong in the secondary
What was considered a weakness on last year’s defense is now the strength of the unit in 2019. The Tigers return three of their four starters in the secondary, including two-year starters K’Von Wallace and Tanner Muse at safety. Also, back is starter A.J. Terrell at boundary corner and reserve safeties Nolan Turner and Denzel Johnson.
Clemson is deep with talent at corner and safety and Derion Kendrick moved over from wide receiver to corner in the spring to provide even more depth. Reserve corners Mario Goodrich, Kyler McMichael and LeAnthony Williams are also back.
The Tigers’ 2019 signing class brought in a lot of talent in the secondary, starting with 5-star corner Andrew Booth, who is expected to come in and challenge Kendrick for the starting spot at field corner. Sheridan Jones, who showed out in the spring, is also expected to challenge for the job at corner and could help as a nickel back as well. Freshman safeties Joseph Charleston and Lannden Zanders are expected to help out with depth at safety.