Clemson is currently ranked No. 2 in the country by ESPN’s Bill Connelly in his SP+ projections for the 2021 college football season.
Connelly basis his projections on returning production, recent recruiting and recent history, all three areas the Tigers are strong coming into a new year. He says he will do another update in August once there are more transfers and injuries to take into account.
Connelly ranks Alabama No. 1 overall. The Tide is ranked fourth on offense and fourth on defense and has an overall rating of 30.7
Clemson is not too far behind at No. 2. The Tigers are third on defense and No. 9 on offense, with an overall rating of 28.6.
Oklahoma is third with a 28.0 rating, followed by Ohio State at 25.0. Oregon rounds out the top 5 with a 24.2 rating. The Ducks just edged out No. 6 Georgia, who had a score of 24.1. Iowa State, Miami, Wisconsin and North Carolina round out the top 10.
Three ACC teams made the top 10, more than any other conference while the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten each had two teams.
Notre Dame, who was a member of the ACC for just this one season in 2020 due to the pandemic, was ranked No. 25.
Clemson returns six starters on offense and all 11 on defense from the 22 players who started in the Sugar Bowl. The Tigers also welcome back D.J. Uiagalelei at quarterback after he started the Boston College and Notre Dame games last season while Trevor Lawrence recovered from COVID-19.
Joining E.J. Williams at wide receiver is Justyn Ross, who missed all of the 2020 season due to spinal surgery last June. Ross was on preseason All-American and All-ACC list prior to his surgery.
Tight end Braden Galloway and four offensive line men return as starters as well.
On defense, Clemson is bringing all 11 starters back from the Sugar Bowl, including up-and-coming star Trenton Simpson at strongside backer. He started three games last season.
Xavier Thomas and Justin Foster are back to try and win their defensive end positions from Myles Murphy, K.J. Henry and Justin Mascoll. Bryan Bree and Tyler Davis are back to man the middle of the interior line.
Baylon Spector and James Skalski are back at linebacker, while Derion Kendrick, Mario Goodrich, Nolan Turner and Landon Zanders are back on defense. The Tigers also return 10 other players on defense that started at some point during the 2020 season.