Opponent Outlook: Clemson

A look at the Clemson Tigers, one of Syracuse football's 2015 opponents.

Team: Clemson

2014 Record: 10-3

Returning starters: QB Deshaun Watson, RB Wayne Gallman, WR Mike Williams, WR Artavis Scott, TE Jordan Leggett, C Ryan Norton, RG Tyrone Crowder, CB Mackensie Alexander, S Jayron Kearse

Most important offensive player: The answer is simple. When Deshaun Watson was on the field last season, Clemson's offense moved up and down the field with ease. Points were scored on the regular. Everything was fine and dandy. When Watson was on the sideline, it was a completely different story. Clemson needs Watson on the field for all 12 games if they're going to chalk up another 10-win season in 2015.

Most important defensive player: Of all the losses Clemson sustained on the defensive side of the ball, there are a number of different directions you could go here. Given the lack of experience at defensive end, Shaq Lawson is probably the best answer. He'll help provide the pass rushing threat that Clemson's lost with the departure of Vic Beasley. Lawson's also a good run stopper, so he's not a one-dimensional player.

Emerging offensive player: Jordan Leggett has 26 catches over his first two seasons at Clemson and I suspect he'll fly by that number this season, assuming he's able to avoid the injury bug, which hit the tight end position hard last year. Leggett's taken his commitment level to a whole different level during the offseason and he hopes 2015 will up his NFL Draft stock.

Emerging defensive player: Brent Venables had a hard time keeping Ben Boulware off the field in 2014. But now that he's a full-time starter at weak-side linebacker, Boulware is set to have a monster junior year. Not only is he a head-hunting, tackling-machine, Boulware is arguably the most critical leader for Clemson on that side of the ball.

How they matchup with Syracuse: Clemson regularly signs some of the best high school talent in the country. That alone gives reason to believe the Tigers should roll again in the Carrier Dome. On paper, Clemson should beat Syracuse like they did in 2013, not like last year's 16-6 nail-biter. But that's why they don't play the games on paper.


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