One of the more asked about questions this off-season has been how good can Clemson’s offense be.
Last year, the Tigers averaged a record 44.3 points and 527.2 yards per game in rolling to a 15-0 season and a third national championship. Some wonder if the they duplicate that success this year.
There is a good chance they can.
Clemson returns seven starters on offense, including quarterback Trevor Lawrence, All-American running back Travis Etienne and wide receivers Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. Oh, by the way, they also return four seniors on the offensive line, all of which have started at least eight games in their careers.
Sports Illustrated thinks the Tigers’ offense has a chance to be special. SI.com ranked Lawrence, Etienne, Higgins and Ross in the top 35 of their top 100 players for the 2019 football season.
In all, Clemson had seven players on the top 100 list. Defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney (No. 45), linebacker Isaiah Simmons (No. 48) and cornerback A.J. Terrell (No. 75) were also on the list.
Lawrence, who threw for 3,280 yards and 30 touchdowns last year, is ranked No. 1 on the list thanks in large part to the way he dismantled Notre Dame’s and Alabama’s defenses in the College Football Playoff. The 2018 ACC Rookie of the Year threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns to beat Notre Dame and then threw three more touchdowns against Alabama for 347 more yards.
He did not throw an interception in all of his postseason games, including against Pittsburgh in the ACC Championship Game. Lawrence finished the year with a Clemson record 169 straight passes without an interception. He threw just four interceptions all season.
Etienne came in at No. 7 on the premiere magazine’s list. The 2018 ACC Player of the Year will have an opportunity to set Clemson’s all-time rushing total if he duplicates last year’s 1,658 yards and 24 rushing touchdowns, both school records. His 26 total touchdowns tied former Pitt running back James Conner for most in a season by an ACC player.
Higgins comes in at No. 20 on the list. He caught a team-high 59 passes last year, including a team-best 12 touchdown receptions. He was second to Ross with 936 yards. His 15.9 yards per catch average was also second to Ross.
Speaking of Ross, he was No. 35 on the list. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound receiver from Alabama tore up the Irish and the Tide in the CFP. He showed the world just how good he is with a combined 301 yards and three touchdowns on 12 catches.
For the season, Ross finished with a team-best 1,000 yards to go along with a 21.7 yards per catch average. He had 46 receptions and scored nine touchdowns.
Clemson players on SI.com’s top 100 Players for 2019 list
1 Trevor Lawrence
7 Travis Etienne
20 Tee Higgins
35 Justyn Ross
45 Nyles Pinckney
48 Isaiah Simmons
75 A.J. Terrell